Canyon Preserve Trail closed due to water runoff

April 3, 2019

Every year, some 30,000 to 40,000 hikers take advantage of the 1.5-mile loop known as the Santa Fe Canyon Preserve.

Located adjacent to the Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sanctuary near the top of Upper Canyon Road, the trail — surrounded by willows, wildflowers and wildlife, including beavers — is ideal for both the experienced hiker and locals who want to take slow-moving visitors on a short, scenic walk.

But the water runoff from this year’s snowpack is threatening to flood the trail, so authorities closed it Tuesday. And it may not reopen for a couple of weeks.

“There’s been a lot of overflow running into the preserve,” said Terry Sullivan, statewide president of the Nature Conservancy, which oversees the trail. “It’s about to overtake some of the trails, and we don’t want people slogging through mud and a few inches of water. It’s not good for the people and it also harms our trail.

“And if the water keeps rising through there,” Sullivan added, “it will be difficult for people to cross.”

Jan-Willem Jansens, a Santa Fe hiker who has used the canyon trail, said the temporary closure makes sense.

“I can see this as a safety concern,” he said. “Kids often run around there alone; dogs could be swept away by water. I can see the point. With so much high water, those areas can be easily flooded.”

The Public Service Company of New Mexico donated the trail area to the Nature Conservancy in 2000. The conservancy developed the trail in 2001 or so, Sullivan said.

So far, there have not been many reports of similar public land closings around the state, said Royce Fontenot, senior service hydrologist for the National Weather Service. He said runoff season is just beginning, and the department will have more information about its potential impact around the state next week.

“We are starting to see higher stream flows as things warm up, so you may see areas where local authorities close off trails located near various streams and rivers,” he said. “But we have had no reports of flooding in the traditional sense.”