Carson National Forest

Carson National Forest is a national forest in northern New Mexico, United States. It is made up of 1.5 million acres and is administered by the United States Forest Service. The Forest Service’s “mixed use” policy permits it use for recreation, resource extraction, and grazing.

The forest was once inhabited by the Ancestral Pueblo people, who left ruins of adobe dwellings and other artifacts at an archaeological site that is now called Pot Creek Cultural Site. Some areas of the forest were previously lands granted to settlers by the Spanish monarchy and the Mexican government. After the Mexican-American War, the national forest was established, and was named for American pioneer Kit Carson. In 1967, the Alianza Federal de Mercedes, which is an organization dedicated to the restoration of Spanish and Mexican land grants, occupied Echo Amphitheater, an area of the forest in the attempt to recreate a historic land grant community. The occupants were evicted for overstaying their camping permits. In 1982, the forest grew by 100,000 acres when the Pennzoil Corporation donated the Valle Vidal Unite to American people.

Wheeler Peak, the highest mountain in New Mexico, stands 13,161 feet and is located in the national forest.

There are five designated wilderness areas within Carson National Forest; Chama River Canyon Wilderness, Columbine-Hondo Wilderness, Latir Peak Wilderness, Cruces Basin Wilderness, Pecos Wilderness, and Wheeler Peak Wilderness. Two of these areas are located mostly in neighboring Santa Fe National Park.

The forest lies mainly in Rio Arriba and Taos counties, but smaller areas extend eastward into western Mora and Colfax counties. Forest headquarters can be found in Taos, New Mexico. There are local ranger district offices in Bloomfield, El Rito, Canjilon, Penasco, Questa, and Tres Piedras.

Image Caption: Lake Fork, Pueblo, and Wheeler Pks, taken from along NM-518 (mileposts 60-61), between Ranchos de Taos and Penasco. Credit: David Herrera/Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)