Construction of a new fishing park at Eagle Rock Lake near Questa and in-stream fish habitat improvements at the Red River fish hatchery are scheduled to begin soon with completion expected this summer.
“This is pretty exciting,” says Nick Streit of Taos Fly Shop. “It’s going to be a popular place.”
Both projects are scheduled to be done by the end of June and will help promote angling and tourism in the area, says Eric Frey, Sport Fish Program Manager for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF).
Chevron Mining construction crews are already dredging the lake to remove contaminated silt and sediment from the bottom before installing a new clay and sand based liner.
Installation of new lake and riverside trails, bridges and in-stream fish habitat improvements will begin shortly, Frey said.
And when it’s all done the lake will be stocked with trout from the nearby Red River fish hatchery.
“It’ll be a very, nice aquatic park in a beautiful setting that folks can really enjoy while fishing,” Frey said.
Downstream at the hatchery construction will begin at the same time to create in-stream fish habitat improvements on the river just above and below the facility, Frey said.
In-stream habitat improvements typically involve adding rocks, tree trunks and reconfiguring the streambed to provide better places for fish to live which in turn benefits anglers.
“There two projects will tie in nicely and make the area much more attractive to anglers,” Frey said.
Campers will find numerous streamside Forest Service campgrounds just upstream of the lake between Questa and Red River and several primitive sites along the road to the hatchery too.
Eagle Rock Lake is just outside of Questa and should be a real help to the village’s economy, says Questa’s Tourism Director, Alberta Bouyer.
“This is a real plus for us as we transition from a mining based economy to one more focused on outdoor recreation and tourism,” Bouyer said.
The longtime molybdenum mine at Questa had sustained the local economy for generations but it shut down for good last June due to poor market conditions.
So now the village is in the process of reinventing itself.
“We’re a small, historic village surrounded by unspoiled wilderness and that’s what makes us unique,” she said. “And this will really help as we work to promote ourselves as one of the best fishing, hiking and camping destinations in the state.”
For more info about Questa and what it has to offer see their website at www.questa-nm.com.
Bouyer said Questa is now working hard on several fronts to develop its economy to better serve those who come to the area to get away from it all.
Questa is uniquely situated in the midst of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, the Hondo/ Columbine Wilderness, the Carson National Forest and nearby Costilla Park, Latir Wilderness and the Valle Vidal.
Mark Bailey, manager of the monument for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said he is working with the village on the possibility of jointly manning a visitor center in the center of Questa to better serve visitors of the area.
But in the meantime the new fishing park and improvements on the river should go a long way towards bringing more anglers to the area, says Streit.
“We’ve been working on this for years and it’s exciting to see this finally getting off the ground,” said Streit who is also a member of the local chapter of Trout Unlimited.
Trout Unlimited, Questa Economic Development Board, Chevron, BLM and the US Forest Service all played a role in developing the project, Frey said.
NMDGF picked up the $800,000 tab for construction of the two projects using proceeds from habitat stamps bought by anglers when obtaining a state fishing license, Frey said.
Apple Mountain Construction of Estancia and Riverbed Engineering of Albuquerque are doing the site work job while dredging of the lake is being handled by Chevron Mining Inc. which owns the now closed mine.
The Red River has rebounded nicely from past contamination from mining activities and now supports resident population of feisty brown trout and is regularly stocked with rainbow trout from the hatchery.
Nearby the Rio Grande gorge within the national monument continues to provide anglers with excellent fishing for wild rainbow and cutthroat trout with plenty of developed camp sites available along the rim above.
Anglers venturing to the area will find a pretty good selection of traditional fishing supplies at Questa Lumber and Hardware next door to the village supermarket. The nearest fly shops are in Taos or Red River.
Anglers who like lake fishing in a high mountain setting will find 15-acre Cabresto Lake where brook and cutthroat trout can be caught just up the road from Questa.
Anglers venturing into the area are asked to stay out of the construction zones at the Eagle Rock Lake and the Red River Fish Hatchery until work is completed by the end of June.