Our New Mexico Waters


Agua es vida, and the waters of New Mexico’s Upper Pecos Watershed sustain and enrich the lives and livelihoods of all who live, work, and recreate there.

These waters are among New Mexico’s most outstanding aquatic resources for people, plants, and animals alike. For centuries, the watershed has supported thriving ecosystems and communities. For generations, the Upper Pecos has supported the Pecos Pueblo peoples and to this day remains culturally and material significant to their communities. The Upper Pecos supports a rich tradition of farming and ranching and other traditional uses, all of which depend on clean water. 

Thanks in part to a long history of respect and stewardship among the communities surrounding the Upper Pecos, most of the waters remain clean and healthy. The high-quality waters of the Upper Pecos also support numerous plants and animals, including New Mexico’s state fish –– the Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout –– and are significant attributes of state Special Trout Waters, the Pecos Wilderness, and the designated Wild and Scenic portion of the Pecos River. 

The Upper Pecos Watershed is the lynchpin of nearby communities and ecosystems. It draws visitors from across New Mexico and across the country to enjoy its scenic beauty and abundant outdoor recreation opportunities. Many seek solitude in the rugged forests and canyons of the surrounding Wilderness and National Forest areas. Others gather to picnic or fish at the U.S. Forest Service Dalton Fishing/Day Use area, or camp at one of the nearby campgrounds. Popular recreational activities range from hiking, biking, and camping to fishing, horseback riding, and more. Lodging and other local businesses depend on the health of the Upper Pecos Watershed to attract visitors. Recreation in the Upper Pecos is vital to local economies, and helps diversify the state’s economy overall, creating more opportunities for individuals, families, and communities –– including future generations –– to thrive right here in New Mexico.

Despite its extraordinary recreational, ecological, economic, and cultural significance, the Upper Pecos Watershed is facing new challenges, both imminent and long-term. Impacts from roads and extractive industries threaten the high-quality upstream waters. Degradation of once- pristine upstream waters would also impede efforts to restore and manage the more polluted waters downstream. The ever-increasing impacts of climate change exacerbate these threats. We must do everything we can today to protect the current health of the watershed and boost its long-term adaptive capacity and resilience.