Take a short trip along the long past of the Rio Chama Valley

By Stacey Lane and C. Scott Palmer
Posted 7/31/20

There’s a scarcer air breezing through the home of the water blessed land. Revealed, where the crystalline flow of the Rio Chama merges with the Rio Grande, is the secreted and sacred treasure …

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Take a short trip along the long past of the Rio Chama Valley

Posted

There’s a scarcer air breezing through the home of the water blessed land. Revealed, where the crystalline flow of the Rio Chama merges with the Rio Grande, is the secreted and sacred treasure of the Chama Valley. Stretching under the jet-blue skies of northern New Mexico and just south of the Colorado border to Abiquiu, this region was home to Georgia O’Keefe, the colorful natural inspiration for the many paintings and the perfect setting for a studio. Travel there, as the land does not disappoint, offering travelers a refreshing breeze, local New Mexico cuisine and unique cultural events.

Perched, and almost kissing the Colorado state line, the friendly railroad hub of Chama offers a crisp reprieve with an elevation of 7,800 feet, in a high valley surrounded by wildflower meadows and rugged mountains showcasing the aspen and ponderosa-pine groves. The enchanting village is home to the nation’s highest scenic narrow-gauge steam railroad, the Cumbres & Toltec, traversing 64-miles between Chama, New Mexico and Antonito, Colorado. It is jointly owned by both states and the historic and scenic railroad leaves Chama depot daily from Memorial Day weekend to mid-October.

Chama serves as a great starting or landing point for many nearby adventures. Come to relish in the clear blue skies, surreal landscapes and quality of light as it served as a mecca for artists, painters and photographers for years. Georgia O’Keefe, known throughout the world for her vivid and bold landscapes, lived and worked through much of her career near Abiquiu on the lower Rio Chama.

With a unique blend of cultures, and a mingling of conversations of English, Spanish and Native languages, people can hear, see, and feel a cool breeze, rambling river, scenic vistas, and have a multi-cultural experience. Each year, more and more people discover the blessings of the Rio Chama Valley.

Chama is nestled in the Southern Rockies, just 120 miles North of Santa Fe. From Albuquerque, I-25 runs north and US-84 West, passing through the Espanola Valley, and through the vivid red-rock canyons of Abiquiu. A nearby trip to Pagosa Springs, Colorado can carry one through emerald greens and plush scenery to land a mineral hot soak in the Springs where Native Americans have been enjoying natural hot mineral springs for generations. An hour and half from Chama you can also find yourself in Taos on picturesque route, taking scenic drive Highway 64. U.S. Route 64 runs from the Four Corners area in Arizona to the east coast of North Carolina. In Arizona, the highway starts at U.S. Route 160 heading southeast for a short distance before entering New Mexico near the town of Beclabito.

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