Vibrant views, winter wildlife
Tucked inside the belly of Moreno Valley’s lowest point where a 2,400-acre alpine lake and snow-capped mountains meet is the cozy confines of Eagle Nest — a small community in between Red River and Angel Fire. Eagle Nest has an immediate Old West vibe. It’s a vibe that comes from the past; from the gunslingers, ghost towns (Elizabethtown and Virginia City), gold mining and wide-open frontier spaces of Colfax County.
Soaring Sangre de Cristo mountain vistas, Eagle Nest Lake State Park, forested hills and rolling pastures provide some of the best wildlife spotting along the 85-mile Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, just 30 miles east of Taos — just a few miles beyond the Vietnam Veterans National Memorial on U.S. Highway 64 north of Angel Fire. This is a 15-mile long, 3-mile wide high alpine meadowland in all its splendor.
Situated in a glacial valley on the slopes of Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s highest peak at 13,161 feet, the base elevation of the Eagle Nest area is 8,382 feet with surrounding mountains that include 12,441-foot Baldy Peak at the north end and 11,086 Agua Fria Peak on the south end. These majestic peaks are home to elk, mule deer, turkeys, mountain lions, birds of prey, coyotes, bears, raccoons and golden eagles, the latter for which the town and lake are named.
The valley’s elk herd is the star of the area’s wintertime show. Several thousand of them inhabit the mountain-skirt forests on both sides of the valley.
The area around Eagle Nest Lake is also prime habitat for birds. During the winter, the native flocks of ducks, geese, pelicans, herons, crows and ospreys thin with migration. However, a number of species over the winter months vary each year depending on the severity of the season. These resident species either never leave the area or they fly in from the north for a milder Moreno Valley winter.
Songbirds appear all year-round, including juncos, sparrows and chickadees. Blue grouse winter under the cover of conifer forests, particularly on the slopes of Touch-Me-Not Mountain. And no matter the season, anglers venture to “The Home of the Browns” in hopes of snagging a trout (rainbow, brown and cutthroat), perch or Kokanee salmon. Eagle Nest Lake is regularly stocked with trout and salmon. It is a popular ice fishing spot for good reason. In late January, the village hosts an ice fishing tournament with cash and door prizes. And for the cold hardy, the town typically hosts an annual Polar Bear Plunge at Eagle Nest Lake on New Year’s Day.
Don’t let the small population of less than 300 or quiet of the town fool you, there are plenty of unique shops to browse and great places to grab a bite to eat along the main street.
For more information visit eaglenestchamber.org.