Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is located in San Antonio, NM, just south of Socorro, NM. Since its establishment in 1939 as a stop for migrating waterfowl, the 57,331 acre refuge has become home to countless wild animals. A 12 mile auto loop and trails ranging up to 9.5 miles long allow for plentiful lookout points and exploration.
Although open to visitors all year, early November to late January brings a spectacular sight of sandhill cranes for bird watchers, hikers, and photographers alike. Every November, the refuge hosts an annual weekend long event known as Festival of the Cranes. Visitors arrive as early as 5 am, waiting in total darkness, silence, and stillness, anticipating the moment the sun will begin to rise. At the first gleam of sunshine, there is only the soft flutter of birds flapping their wings. Then, as they begin to head south, the flapping only grows louder and, the sound of their wings is quickly followed by the sound and flutter of camera shutters as they take off. As each bird takes flight, people watch in awe as the sunrise reflects off of their wings and both older and younger participants simultaneously spend a moment appreciating the beauty of the takeoff. Admission is free during the Festival of the Cranes and is open to both bird watchers and nature appreciators of all ages. If you anticipate attending the 5:00 a.m. flight, remember to dress warm because temperatures can get below freezing!