Monday, April 20, 2009

McKittrick Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains National Park: Part 1

On Saturday with sun-shiny skies, a full tank of gas and lots of energy we headed to Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  This park is just over the border from New Mexico in Texas and is separated by 10 miles of Lincoln National Forest from Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  The 8,000' peaks in the Guadalupe mountains are called the Capitan Reef.  250 million years ago the area comprising Carslbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains was covered by sea complete with reefs.  Over time and due to changes in water supply (being cut off from the main ocean), the reefs died and the sea eventually dried up creating an environment we call the Chihuahan Desert.  A period of uplift later pushed up certain parts of the reef through its burial in sediments and created the Guadalupe Mountains - the world's largest exposed fossil reef and many caves and caverns.   It's a fascinating location!

Here's the first photo tour of our hike.  We took too many photos for one post so this one covers the general area and subsequent posts will cover wildflowers, arthropods and Pratt Cabin.

Jennifer prepares herself for a nice hike into McKittrick Canyon...


It's a bit more wild country here than northeastern Indiana...


Heading away from the visitor center into the canyon...



Ocotillo in bloom!  Look closely for the red flowers on the tips of the wiry shrub in the forefront of the photo.  



McKittrick Canyon is so special for humans and wildlife because there is water.  Some parts of the stream bed are dry where the water runs underground and in other locations, the water surfaces and creates an environment quite unlike the surrounding lands.  People flock to McKittrick Canyon in the fall to see the deciduous hardwood trees growing along the stream in full autumnal color.  


The bark of a Texas Madrone tree...


A bigleaf maple with seeds....


Steve's stop to check out the maple tree proved even more worthwhile when he spotted this little Flammulated Owl hunkered down in the shade of the branches.  We watched this amazing creature for a few minutes and even enjoyed a direct look from her before she flew a bit further away from us.  SUPER COOL!  The flammulated owl is quite small (only 6.75 inches long) with distinctive dark eyes.  


Beautiful country...


A singing vireo....birding friends - any further id? (4/23/09: Most likely a Plumbeous Vireo.  Thanks Ed & Cynthia!)





1 comment:

  1. Can't wait till June!! Amazing photos, I love the owl:)

    ReplyDelete

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