Cibola National Forest

Cibola National Forest is a national forest that is located in New Mexico in the United States. The park, which contains 1,633,783 acres, holds grasslands that extend into Oklahoma and Texas and is separated into four ranger districts known as the Mountainair district, the Mt. Taylor district, the Sandia district, and the Magdalena district. This national forest is home to numerous mountains including the Zuni, Magdalene, the Bear, and Sandia Mountains. Elevations within the park vary between 5,000 feet and 11,301 feet, although the national grasslands hold their own varying elevations, which are not included in these estimates.

Although Cibola National Forest contains four national grasslands, including McClellan Creek National Grassland, Rita Blanca National Grassland, and Black Kettle National Grassland, the largest grassland area is Kiowa National Grassland, which holds 136,417 acres in four counties in New Mexico. It holds 137,701 acres of designated wilderness, which is separated between the ranger districts. It also holds 246,000 acres of Inventoried Roadless Areas, which can be important to conservation efforts.

Cibola National Forest has a history that spans back to the Paleoindian period, giving it a rich history that includes the development of human civilization as well as developments in nature, like the Megafaunal extinction. Native American tribes, like the Apache, dominated areas of the national forest for many years, and historical figures including Butch Cassidy and the Apache Kid, for whom one wilderness area was named, can be linked to the area. It was not until precious metals were discovered in the region that non- Native Americans moved into the area in high numbers, but evidence of these activities are now rarely seen due to regrowth, collapse, and topographic screening. Cattle driving was also a popular trade in the area during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Cibola National Forest holds many habitats including Chihuahuan desert and short grass prairie, with forests of sub-alpine spruce and fir and piñon-juniper. There is a great diversification of wildlife within the national forest due to these habitats. Animals that live in the park include bears, wild turkey, pronghorn, prairie dogs, and migrating birds and waterfowl. The area known as sky islands holds over two hundred species of rare plants and animals, with thirty endangered or threatened species. Many areas of the park have been designated as important eco-regions for conservation and preservation of species.

Cibola National Forest offers a variety of activities for visitors including the most popular, nature viewing and hiking, as well as biking, backpacking, camping, skiing, hunting, stargazing, and picnicking. A restaurant can be reached by taking the Sandia Peak Tramway to the top of the mountain, where skiing is offered. The area is also home to many scientific research areas, including the Langmuir Research Site, which is the largest and is located at South Baldy Peak. Other research sites include the Magdalena Ridge Observatory and the Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research. The park also contains sites for logging, mining, and oil and gas developments.

Image Caption: The Apache Kid Wilderness in the Cibola National Forest. Credit: US Forest Service, Cibola National Forest/Wikipedia