Essential Safety Tips for Exploring the Great Outdoors
Safety conscious hikers at the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico.

If New Mexico’s majestic peaks, babbling brooks, and serene lakes beckon you, the Public Lands Interpretive Association (PLIA) stands ready to ensure that your time spent in the Land of Enchantment is both pleasurable and secure. This non-profit institution is dedicated to guiding individuals through public lands in a manner that safeguards both personal safety and the delicate balance of our natural and historical sites.

In its latest initiative, PLIA is creating a series of informative videos designed to educate outdoor enthusiasts on best practices for river recreation, fire safety, wildlife interactions, the principles of Leave No Trace, and respect for historical sites. Though the series is created with the Río Grande del Norte National Monument in mind, the advice offered is intended for wide application to a variety of natural settings. The series will also feature a virtual journey through the monument.

This summary provides a sneak peek into the array of topics the series will cover. The videos will be accessible on the BLM and PLIA websites and available for viewing at the visitor centers of Wild Rivers and the Río Grande Gorge. These resources are intended to supplement the Junior Ranger booklet, also available at these visitor centers.

River Safety

Towards the state’s northern boundary, especially during periods of high-water flow, the Río Grande draws those looking for the rush of rafting and kayaking. This stands in contrast to the tranquil, slow-moving Río Grande found in the state’s southern expanse.

For participants on these waterways, the wearing of life vests is essential. Even seasoned swimmers are vulnerable to the dangers of cold-water immersion, which can prompt an automatic gasp reflex. A life vest that fits correctly is a critical safeguard in such emergencies.

For rapids enthusiasts, including a helmet in your safety equipment is also a smart precaution. Moreover, heed the 120-degree rule: a combination of air and water temperatures at or below 120 degrees calls for the use of a wet or dry thermal suit.

Never venture onto a section of river that is outside your skill level, always start from a recognized launch point, and ensure that your planned route and return time are known to someone. For those not accustomed to the river’s nuances, it’s prudent to consider the guidance of a seasoned professional.

Safety on the water includes wearing a helmet, like this kayaker. Photo courtesy BLM.
Safety on the water includes wearing a helmet, like this kayaker. Photo courtesy BLM.

Fire Safety

Fires in the wild are a critical hazard in the northern regions of New Mexico. Just one small ember has the potential to ravage ancient forest habitats and the fauna who make the area their home. Such fires often spread, encroaching on nearby neighborhoods and endangering both houses and lives.

Comply with all fire restrictions or bans in place. At the campsites within the Wild Rivers and Orilla Verde Recreation Areas in the Río Grande del Norte National Monument, fires are restricted to designated metal grills or fire pans. Fire prohibitions, especially during times of drought, might be in full effect in some areas. It’s ill-advised to ignite any flames on windy days as airborne sparks can travel and ignite wildfires. Prior to lighting any fires, have a water supply handy.

When children are with you, make sure they recognize the dangers associated with fire and supervise active fires to avert accidents. Making s’mores or roasting hot dogs can be opportunity to discuss fire safety protocols.

Maintain a moderate campfire size and never leave it unsupervised. Confirm that the fire is completely extinguished and that the remains are cold to the touch before departing. To put out the fire, douse it with ample water, stirring the ashes to ensure that every ember is wet. This process should be repeated until you are certain the fire has cooled down. If water is not be available, sand or soil can be used effectively.

Wildlife Safety

The broad expanse of wilderness that serves as our playground is also the home for a variety of animal species. At the Río Grande del Norte National Monument, it is common to observe various animals crossing the landscape as they journey from one area to another. To keep both humans and animals safe, it’s vital to respect their space. These wild residents usually prefer to maintain a distance from human activity, hence it’s vital that you don’t make an animal feel cornered.

In warmer weather, it’s not unusual to see rattlesnakes, perhaps sunning on a trail. Keep your distance and don’t put your hands into crevasses between rocks where they could be lying in wait.

Safety is important around all wild animals, like this bighorn sheep at the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Photo courtesy BLM.
Safety is important around all wild animals, like this bighorn sheep at the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Photo courtesy BLM.

Leave No Trace

All too frequently, outdoor enthusiasts leave a trace of their visit behind: packaging from snacks, single-use bottles, empty cans, discarded baby diapers, cigarette butts, and even discarded clothes. This rubbish not only spoils the natural ecosystem but also threatens the well-being of wildlife, which could lead to illness or death.

Moreover, the garbage tarnishes the view and the enjoyment for future visitors. The principle is simple: if you carry something in, carry it out. Ensure the only evidence of your stay are the footprints you leave behind.

Reverence for Traditions

The lands you walk on may be sacred to Indigenous groups, and during your visit, you may come upon ancient remnants like petroglyphs chiseled into boulders or the foundations of their ancient homes. These artifacts should be left as they are, undisturbed and intact. In instances where an area is indicated as restricted owing to its sacred essence, you should exhibit respect and avoid entering.

About Río Grande Del Norte National Monument

Under the stewardship of the Bureau of Land Management, the sweeping landscapes of the Río Grande del Norte National Monument boast an array of upland terrains and old volcanic structures, areas that have sustained human life since prehistoric periods. Nowadays, this protected region welcomes a host of outdoor activities, including camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, mountain bike riding, wildlife watching, and relishing the scenic river that is the monument’s namesake. The Río Grande forms a dramatic gorge up to 800 feet below the plains.

Read about the Public Lands Interpretive Association’s online store here.

Learn more about this PLIA adventure safety project here.


PLIA logo

Posted by

Featured Businesses