Between the Sangre de Christo and San Juan mountain ranges
lay the 4,000 square mile high desert of the Taos Plateau volcanic field. Here
the rolling cerros and scrublands are dramatically divided [east and west] by
the Rio Grande Gorge—the defining feature of the Rio Grande Rift. The rift was
formed millions of years ago by opposing Pacific and North American tectonic
plates. The resulting ripple provided the path of least resistance for the Rio
Grande to flow south from the highlands of the San Juan Mountains and San Luis
Valley. The Rio Grande Gorge has since been worked by the river, forming sheer
canyon walls and miles of boulder strewn rapids. Access to the Taos Plateau and
Rio Grande Gorge is provided by the numerous backroads that spur from the
bordering blacktops; US 285 [at west] and NM 522 [at east]. Near Arroyo Hondo,
NM, the Rio Grande Gorge bottom is crossable via the historic John Dunn Bridge.
Near Mesita, CO, the Rio Grande is crossable via the historic Costilla Crossing
Bridge. The two bridges link the Taos Plateau's vast system of backroads [east
with west] and allow for multiple overland route options through the area.
Taos Plateau north of Ute Mountain, Taos Gorge & Costilla Bridge - Taos County, NM & Costilla County, CO