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Jemez Mountains

By Bill Dyroff, Journal Correspondent, from Albuquerque Journal, 1996

Fenton Lake is almost 50 years old. Much of it is silted in and shallow. But there’s new hope for this popular lake in the Jemez Mountains.

Fenton is being rejuvenated, and some Rio Rancho citizens are directly involved. The activities at the lake highlight the success of the Rio Rancho Meadowlark Senior Center Fishing Club.

Fenton is about 30 surface acres, some 60 miles northwest of Albuquerque in the Jemez Mountains. It has brown trout and is stocked with rainbows by the Game and Fish Department. Close to the state’s major populations, Fenton is heavily fished.

However, a major problem occurs each summer as the lake stratifies into warm and cool levels. The warm water remains atop the cool water, and there is little or no circulation between the sections. The lower, cooler water required by trout is subsequently low in oxygen.

With about 60 percent of the lake 5 feet or less in depth, there’s lots of plant growth, according to Jack Kelly, fisheries manager for the department’s northwest area.

It’s obviously tough to fish through the thick plant growth. But, the photosynthesis process with the plants and sunlight raises the pH level (indicator of the acid and alkaline condition) to the point where the department can’t plant fish.

“In the four years I’ve been here,” Kelly said, “Fenton has not been stocked from late June through August. And even if fish are in the lake, with a high pH level, they stop feeding.”

That’s in the past. Two air diffusers (commonly called aerators) were installed this month. Kelly said, “These will destratify the lake…not allow it to stratify in the summer.”

Game and Fish officer Jack Kelly and T.J. Jimerson lower a diffuser into the depths of Fenton Lake in the Jemez Mountains. Photo by Bill Dyroff/Journal

Game and Fish officer Jack Kelly and T.J. Jimerson lower a diffuser into the depths of Fenton Lake in the Jemez Mountains. Photo by Bill Dyroff/Journal

Grass carp will soon be introduced to consume large quantities of the bottom growth, too.

That’s the two-pronged approach Kelly is working on. Both actions will help maintain favorable pH conditions for the trout. Kelly expects the changes will allow plantings of rainbows in Fenton through the summer.

“The Rio Rancho Senior Center Fishing Club got the ball rolling on this,” Kelly said. “And they supported it financially.”

Just eight years ago, that club had only four members. Now they have about 100. “And we’re still growing,” said Joe Klein, past-president and the club’s top officer for six years.

“We started in 1986 to work for an improvement at Fenton,” Klein said. “We brought the problem to Gov. Carruthers. He promised to look into this, and asked (Natural Resources Secretary) Tom Barr to investigate our complaint.”

Two weeks ago, Kelly, assisted by volunteer T.J. Jimerson, anchored two diffusers in the middle of the lake, some 150 to 200 feet apart, not far from the dam and boat ramp. The pair also anchored a conduit leading from the compressor on shore and then splitting to the diffusers. The anchors were bricks secured to the conduit with plastic ties at intervals of a couple feet.

The system was fully tested, but not set in operation for lack of a secure storage for the compressor. The storage problem has been solved, said park manager Orlando Herrera.

The project had vital financial help from New Mexico Trout. This organization contributed close to $500 for the purchase of the compressor and diffuser manifold. Kelly also received volunteer advice and assistance from Jerry Mohrmann, of Mohrmann Electric in Albuquerque, with final preparation of conduit and electrical connections. Kelly said, “Mohrmann offered to help just because he likes to fish Fenton.”

Visitors will readily see a large “boil” above each of the diffusers. As described by the manufacturer, Aquatic Eco-Systems, the diffuser releases very small bubbles from a 4-square-foot area…expanding as they rise, the bubbles also spread away from each other to a maximum of about 10 square feet. The column of water moves 2,000 gallons a minute from the vicinity of the diffuser and approximately 4,000 gallons a minute near the surface.

The price the diffuser system is about $2,000, and the grass carp cost about $1,100.

From Albuquerque Journal, December 8, 1984

Photo by Alexandria King/Journal Photo

Photo by Alexandria King/Journal Photo

A sport usually associated with the icy and snowbound North, dog sled racing is gaining popularity in New Mexico, which has about 20 teams of three to eight dogs each. Some trainers have found that they can work out their dogs and at the same time get some exercise themselves, as bicycle-riding Karen Cummings has discovered. These Siberian huskies are making a practice run to get in shape for upcoming races while Miss Cummings pedals to keep up. In some instances she finds that she’s going faster then her team. Later, at the New Mexico Sled Dog Racing Association’s fun and training race in La Queva, on Dec. 29 and 30, and the state championship race at Lake Fenton in the Jemez mountains in January, the dogs will be pulling sleds over snow. For now, though, they’re training at Cutter Field in Albuquerque for the next two weekends.

Promotional brochure Jemez Joliday. Date unknown, probably late 1960s/early 1970s.




 Interesting rock formations abound throughout the area, and fossils, mostly Pennsylvania age, are easily found from Jemez Springs through Battleship Rock. The Jemez Mountains has its share of toadstools and mushrooms. This hobby is recommended for experts only. Bumper pinon crops attract many families in good years. Spread a tarp or blanket under the tree and shake it.Camera fans–try one of the logging roads just above La Cueva for some spectacular panoramic shots. Or, in that same general area, interesting tree- bark patterns and tiny forest plants lend themselves to charming close-up work. (Don’t forget the pictures of the whole family around the picnic table!)

Fishing, hunting, hiking -take your choice. Recreational opportunities are many and varied. You don’t have to be a sportsman or a hobbyist to enjoy a Jemez Joliday though . . . all you really need is an eye for outdoor beauty and an appreciation of Nature’s handiwork.

On the following pages you’ll find a map along with some interesting information and a directory of services available in the Jemez Springs vicinity.

Come soon, Come often . . .to the Jemez Mountains.

Battleship Rock




If your starting point is Albuquerque, take Highway 422 to the Cuba turnoff, and proceed on Highway 44 to San Ysidro. This is semi-desert country, dry and stark and magnificent; only the valiant, whether man or beast or plant, survive here. Centuries ago Indian pueblos were built along the trajectory of the Jemez River. You’ll pass Santa Ana, relatively uninhabited except on ceremonial occasions . . . and Zia, still flourishing, both set well back from the road.


Bearing right at San Ysidro, on SR4, you will pass Jemez Pueblo, which is bisected by the highway. A cattle guard marks the beginning of the Jemez Reservation just north of San Ysidro and another at Canyon marks the northern border. In spring you will see well-tilled fields planted in corn and chili. Summer brings the vineyards to ripeness and in autumn every house is adorned with strings of red chili. On a winter morning the air is filled with the scent of many pinon fires, smoke curling upward from each chimney. You may drive through the pueblo if you wish.

Just north of Canyon, on the west side of the road, you will see a series of fine, modern buildings providing educational and social facilities for surrounding communities, plus housing to accommodate some of the dedicated school personnel who choose to live in this remote area.



Leaving the red rock area of the Canyon, you now begin to enter the canyon of the Jemez River, actually “El Canyon de San Diego”. The canyon was given this name, so the story goes when St. James appeared to a besieged group of early Indians fearfully trying to hold off their assailants from the top of a bluff. Their patron saint left his image on the side of the steep rock and the marauders were sufficiently impressed by the apparition that they went on their way. Stop at a point 3.6 miles north of the cattle guard at Canyon, look at the rock wall, near the top, and you will see an outline of a robed figure “carved” in the rock.


Approaching the village of Jemez Springs you will find nestled between the canyon walls, good farm and pasture land. Many of the people of the village were born and reared here and their memories go back to create fascinating stories and pictures of the early days; i.e. the Otero bothers riding through town, silver trimmed saddles agleam, lighting their Havana cigars with $5 bills; fiesta day on August 15, food piled high onevery table for visiting priests and friends, the men and boys running a bull through the streets with impromptu capes flying, horse races to Soda Dam and back, the church lit by the glow of many farolitas, dancing in the streets till down. The boys of that early period roamed the hillsides near the village and found pueblo ruins, burials and artifacts of a still earlier down. There were curiously-shaped small rocks covering the slopes which later scholars, identified fossils – brachiopods, crinoids, trilobites and coral.

The old Abousleman home, just south of the general stores, was built in 1911 when Moses Abousleman, a Lebanese, brought his young bride to the wilderness. While the house was being built, Moses found it necessary to go after some sheep, which had “strayed” from his flocks. A gun-battle with the rustlers ensued and Moses was seriously hurt; the sheep-herders carried him to Jemez Pueblo and his wife came to care for him. For several weeks he could not be moved and Edna stayed at his side. Meanwhile, back at the hacienda, work went on. But the local carpenters accustomed as they were to cooking in a horno or over an open fire, completely overlooked the building of a kitchen! (It has since been added on, needless to say). Moses Abousleman had been told about a cave under Soda Dam and accessible on1y by diving under the water and crawling through the opening up into the dry area (beaver-style, you might say). He dove. . . and brought back tightly woven woolen blankets, old at the turn of the century. A fine collection of early- day weapons and other mementos may be seen in the Los Ojos bar.

In contrast to the older homes and buildings there is a modern firehouse and well- equipped fire department in Jemez Springs. Because they have two fire trucks, they are often called upon to assist neighboring communities. The purchase of a rescue vehicle was made possible by a successful community fund-raising drive. Also a fully equipped police car and a full-time marshal have been employed.

The village recreation hall is used for youth programs and civic projects. Hot mineral springs are scattered throughout the Jemez Mountains and are well known for their healing properties. The village Bath House facilities are open to the public at a nominal charge. A masseuse is on duty weekends. American Legion Post 75 and Auxiliary have a modern building in the center of Jemez Springs, used for myriad community activities. It would be well worth your while to stop and sample their Friday and Saturday night dinners. You will discover that this is an active community. The Jemez Mountains Wildlife and Conservation Association sponsor many land and habitat improvement projects. A community library, a credit union an art league -these and numerous other groups serve the area.


Jemez Mission

You’re Invited

To the Saturday night band concerts in Jemez Springs . . . just south of the firehouse . . . starting about 7 p.m.

To use the Jemez Springs Community Library if you are spending several days in the area. The library is housed in the Jemez Mountains Electric Co- op Building. Books may be returned at the Ranger Station if necessary.

To come August 15 to attend the annual village fiesta. To come and enjoy the spectacular Christmas display.


Visitors at Christmas time will be treated to unique holiday displays, all constructed by local residents. Don’t miss the Indian figures at Soda Dam, beautifully done by Al and Natachee Momaday.

Via Coeli Monastery, at the northern end of the village and with hospices throughout the Jemez Springs area, is a rest home for Roman Catholic religious. You are most welcome to visit the monastery and its many, beautiful gardens, chapels and art treasurers from around the world make Via Coeli a “must see”. One of the padres will be happy to take you on tour.

Directly across the road from Via Coeli is the old mission. A museum was built on this site in 1964 and archeological study and restoration are continuing activities. The crumbling walls of the old church and the surrounding pueblo invite the imagination to a scene of bustling activity in the little village a rather pleasant way of life which came abruptly to an end on an April day in 1681 when the Indians massacred their Spanish colonists.

At the northern end of the village is the U.S.F.S. Ranger Station. Rangers on duty will be happy to answer your questions and to supply tree permits.

Soda Dam, built up over the centuries by calcium deposits from hot mineral springs, is well worth stopping to see. This was a living, growing structure until the highway through Jemez Springs was paved. The resultant blasting changed the course of the hot water. It is now highly susceptible to erosion and efforts are underway to restore the structure so that it may be treasured by future generations.

Soda Dam

Soda Dam

Across the highway from Soda Dam is a cave showing evidence of occupancy by Indians centuries ago. The ceiling is blackened by long-dead campfires. Approximately one-eighth mile south of Soda Dam, on the west side, Indian pictographs in red of a snake and egg can be clearly seen.

Hummingbird Lodge Music Camp is located 3 miles north of Soda Dam. Sunday concerts start on the lawn, about 2 p.m. An outdoor band concert is presented each Saturday evening throughout the summer in Jemez Springs. Visitors are most welcome at these events.

Battleship Rock, 5 miles north of Jemez Springs, is an excellent and popular picnic ground. Proceeding north you will find campgrounds scattered through the forest. Recreation permits are required in some areas. Check at the Ranger Station for more information.

The road forks at La Cueva. Paved SR4 proceeds to Los Alamos. An excellent road SR126, takes you to Cuba. Let’s take SR126 first. San Antonio Campground, near La Cueva, has a section designed for use by the handicapped. It contains a self-guiding nature trail, picnic facilities and fishing area.

Fenton Lake, operated by the Department of Game and Fish, is located approximately seven miles from La Cueva. Camping, picnicking, boating, fishing–take your choice. It’s one of the most popular fishing lakes in New Mexico. This is also the site of Fenton Lake Wildlife Area, a refuge established primarily to protect waterfowl.

Fenton Lake

Fenton Lake

Seven Springs Fish Hatchery, a short distance from the lake, offers a pleasant diversion. Here you will find the only native cutthroat brood stock in the state. On toward Cuba is the San Pedro Parks Wild Area. 41,000 acres of virgin spruce interspersed with moist park-like meadows. Situated on a 10,000 foot rolling plateau, this area contains the headwaters of the Rio Las Vacas and Rio Puerco. At the entrance to the wilderness is the popular San Gregorio Lake.

Seven Springs Hatchery

Seven Springs Hatchery

Back at La Cueva, you may prefer to stay on the main road and drive to Los Alamos. There are a number of side roads here, which offer fabulous views of the canyon and a quiet place to stop and rest. Tall, majestic Ponderosa pines are found here, as are fir, spruce and aspen. Although beautiful at any time of year, you will especially enjoy this area in early fall when the shrubs and aspen are brilliant red and yellow to contrast with the evergreen forest. Jemez Canyon Overlook is a self-guiding nature trail with a magnificent vista point of the canyon below. It’s located across the highway from the Jemez Ranger District’s newest recreation area, Redondo Campground.

Valle Grande, a volcanic caldera 15 miles wide and 18 miles long, is a highlight of any trip. The broad valleys with their hillocks of evergreen make excellent summer pasture land. The Valle is now privately owned but, as always, you may take photographs as you wish and carry away a treasure of memory-pictures.

A paved road through the gentle green forest takes you into Los Alamos, the Atomic City, clean and beautifully landscaped.

We have said this is year-round recreation country. You may hunt coyote, rabbit and bobcat throughout the year, and, in season, deer, turkey, bear and grouse. Several large elk herds attract hunters each fall. You may fish year-round south of Soda Dam; from early May to November 30 north of there. All of the major watercourses in the area are stocked frequently with both Rainbow and German Brown trout. The higher mountains are usually snow-covered from late November until April. Sledding, ski-dooing, or just a drive can turn a drab winter Sunday into an invigorating holiday. Plans are under consideration for further development of the area as a winter playground. If you like to cut your own Christmas tree or firewood, stop at the Ranger Station for permit and information. And do bring tire chains if you travel the high country in winter -they may save you expense and discomfort.

Whatever the season, come often and enjoy the Jemez Country.