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Quebradas Backcountry Byway: The road less traveled

The Quebradas Back Country Byway stretches westward towards Escondida in central Socorro County. (Robert Browman/Albuquerque Journal)

Whether you’re a geography nerd or just an adventurer on the hunt for an accessible bit of beauty and solitude close to home, an often-overlooked road an hour south of Albuquerque may be the gem you’ve been searching for.

The Quebradas Backcountry Byway twists and turns like a passage back in time for 24 dirt-road miles through spectacular scenery and geology in central Socorro County.

Quebradas, which means “breaks,” is one of five byways managed by the Bureau of Land Management in New Mexico. It stretches from Escondida to near U.S. 380 about 11 miles west of San Antonio.

Although the drive opens to broad and expansive views of desert and nearby mountains, it also snakes past multicolored cliffs, badlands and geology from multiple periods, according to Brenda Wilkinson, an archaeologist with the BLM.

“You don’t have to be a geology enthusiast to appreciate the colors and complexities of the exposed geologic formations, but it’s an added bonus if you are,” Wilkinson said.

She said visitors can expect to see formations of sedimentary rock from the Pennsylvanian, Permian, Late Cenozoic and Quaternary periods, as well as from the Triassic and Upper Cretaceous.

The BLM and the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources at New Mexico Tech have produced a Geologic Guide of Quebradas with numbered stops to help visitors identify what they are looking at. It’s available at the BLM’s Socorro Office and at New Mexico Tech’s Bureau of Geology.

For those looking to hop out of the car for an on-foot adventure, there are multiple hikes off the byway, including a short walk to a small oasis.

Ojo de Amado Spring, or Bursum Spring, as it’s known to locals, is an easy hike of three-tenths of a mile or so from the road. To reach the spring, drivers can park just south of the Spot 1 sign, about a mile from the northern end of the byway, and walk down the dirt road into a wash below. The spring is to the left down the wash.

Bobcats, coyotes, gray foxes, porcupines, snow geese, sandhill cranes, quail, red-tailed hawks, American kestrels, collared lizards, bull snakes, king snakes, whip snakes, Western diamondback rattlesnakes and other animals may all be seen in the area, according to a BLM guide to the area.

Although the road is usually drivable in a passenger car, Wilkinson said, heavy rains sometimes create problems. The BLM grades the road each year to keep the byway as accessible as possible.

It’s “managed for its scenic quality and driving use, as well as access for other recreation activities, such as hiking



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