Overnight In the Ojito Wilderness

Limestone formations along a hiking trail in the Ojito

The Ojito Wilderness is about 11,000 acres of Sandoval county, New Mexico that was designated wilderness by congress in 2005 throught the 1964 Wildness Act. It is located west of Rio Rancho, New Mexico and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The glow from Albuquerque can bee seen east of the Ojito. The Sandia’s can bee seen to the left of the short mesa and right of the tall light tower. The small red lights are from the radio towers on top of the Sandias.

People have been going to the Ojito for years before it was protected as a wilderness, it’s not one of the better known outdoor areas near the Albuquerque. The Ojito is a combination of desert; sand, cactus and scrub but also contains some pine trees and grasses. It’s sort of a transition area between the deserts in Albquerque and the forests of the Jemez. What makes the Ojito special is the number of impressive rock formations. There are a number of hoodoos formed by water millions of years ago, badlands and buffs.

Ojito Hoodoos
Ojito Hoodoos
Ojito Badlands
Ojito Badlands

I have had two trips to the Ojito, once in April of 2011 and this last time in June of 2012 and it will probably be a annual trip for me. Spring or Fall are good times to spend overnight in the Ojito, June is not. It’s hot, most plants have stopped flowering and there was a large number of nats and other flying insects. One of the reasons I like living in the desert is the lack of flying bugs so I was surprised at how many there was. There is no water, lakes or streams and people must bring it with them. As this is official Wilderness land no wheeled vehicles are allowed. Including bicycles. This probably keeps people away but backpacking a short distance in is well worth experience.

Firepit with hoodoos and a pine tree in the background
Firepit with hoodoos and a pine tree in the background

The area I camped included a group of hoodoos with a large area of sand and trees farther out. In the middle of the sand area there is a fire pit. Believe it or not while the rest of the state was under fire restrictions the Ojito was not. I verified with the BLM and was specifically told that the Ojito was not included with the rest of the state. Part of the reason might be because there is so little to burn. There are some pine trees spotted around the area the vegetation is pretty spares and well adapted to not getting water.

Trying to find out the fire restrictions in the Ojito was difficult. The official BLM webpage for the Ojito doesn’t tell a whole lot about restrictions in federal lands, as they are often different from the state lands. NM Fire Info lists state land fire restrictions and Public Lands Information Center lists federal fire restrictions.

FInally, New Mexico First District Representative Martin Heinrich created the Ojito.org website.

“Thank you for visiting the Ojito website. I hope you find the information here useful as you learn about and explore this unique and beautiful place. As someone who dedicated several years of my life to the creation the Ojito Wilderness, I also hope you will leave the area just as you found it. If we are all good stewards of this wild landscape, generations to come will continue to enjoy Ojito’s opportunities for hiking, hunting, photography and outdoor adventure. Enjoy. This is where the West is still wild.”

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