So what exactly is the Valle Vidal? Translated “The Valley of Life, ” and named after a very impressive valley that splits the 100,000-acre unit of the Carson National Forest like a seam, the park was a gift to the public by the Pennzoil Company. Formerly, a part of the Vermejo Park, this donation was the single largest and most valuable donation of private land ever transferred to the Forest Service.

Today, the Valle Vidal has become a sanctuary for outdoor recreation, hunting and fishing enthusiasts. It is special place, cherished by the locals and entrusted by all. Each year more than 3,000 Boy Scouts find high adventure in the alpine mountains.

The Valle Vidal is home to many Game species, including Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, black bear, and game fish, which include rainbow trout, brown trout, Rio Grande cutthroat trout and rainbow hybridization, known as the “cut-bow.”

RIO GRANDE CUTTHROAT TROUT

Rio Grande cutthroat are vibrantly colored averaging 7-12 inches. They are called cutthroats because they have blood red slashes below their head. They are native to Costilla Creek and a true fly-fisherman’s challenge to catch. The Rio Grande cutthroat trout is New Mexico’s official state fish.

CAMPING

Your best option is to stay at the McCrystal Creek campground located off Forest Rd. 1950, 30 miles south of Amalia. The 60-site campground is set at an elevation of 8,100 feet, and is the model Forest Service campground. The views are spectacular, overlooking 9,000 foot peaks and a pine outlined meadows. Campsites have fire rings, picnic tables and lots of space. Campers often have their horses tied to surrounding trees as they rest from long treks through the mountains and valleys.

The second option is to stay in the Cimarron campground, which has 32 sites, located via Forest Rd. 1950 to Forest Rd. 1910, which ends in camp.

Reservations are not required, but may be made by contacting the Questa Ranger District, (505) 586-0520.

WHERE TO FISH

Shuree Ponds: Located off Forest Rd. 1950, Shuree Ponds are located right in the middle of the Valle Vidal. The two ponds are the only bodies of water that hold “catch-able” game fish. Fishermen are limited to 2 trout, at least 15 inches long and must also obey the artificial flies or lures with single, barbless hooks regulation that is enforced throughout the Valle Vidal. The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish stocks 12-16 inch rainbows regularly during the summer. Of the two ponds, the smaller one is reserved for kids age 12 and under and can be easily fished from the banks. The second copper mugs australia pond is much larger, approximately 5 acres, and is more commonly fished using a float tube.

Costilla Creek: With Rio Grande Cutthroats averaging 8-12 inches, this river is the main fishery and winds through wide mountain meadows. Cast dry flies upstream to the heads and tails of pools. Try flipping your fly beneath the edges of the bank and allow you fly to float downstream.

Comanche Creek: One of the branches off Costilla Creek, fishing techniques are similar to those used in Costilla Creek. Try casting 5 to 10 yard off the bank into the far bank and look for shaded still pools.

Ponil Creek: The creek feeds and relives the Shuree Ponds. Trout frequently hang out in the water both above and below the ponds.

REGULATIONS

The Valle Vidal is open for fishing July 1 through December 31. Spring Closure in the west side of the Valle Vidal Unit is from May 1, – June 30, Winter Closure on the East side of Valle Vidal is from January 1, – March 31st. Beginning 2.4 miles downstream at Latir Creek, and throughout the Valle Vidal Unit, all streams and ponds are subject to special fishing regulations. In other words, it’s catch and release using artificial flies or lures with single, barbless hooks.

RCCLA WATERS

Rio Costilla from the Valle Vidal boundary (2.4 miles downstream to Latir Creek)

BAIT: Artificial flies or lures with single, barbless hooks

BAG: Catch and release only, no trout in possession

SPEICES OF GAME FISH: Rio Grande Cutthroats and hybrid Rio Grande Cutthroats/Rainbows called cut-bows

FEES: Less than $10 per day, per person

CONTACT: (800) 746-7275

ALL STREAMS

BAIT: Artificial flies or lures with single, barbless hooks

BAG: Catch and release only, no trout in possession