Escapito #4: Reservoir Hopping thru Georgia O’Keefe Country

On the road again with “The Felix” reservoir hopping through spectacular Georgia O’Keefe country in north-central New Mexico.

Come along and see what we discovered!

August 8, 9, 10, & 11, 2022

We’ve been here before, but the geology (infinitely fascinating), shapes and colors (infinite inspiration), and the expansive views (just doggone infinite) always amaze and never get old.

First stop ….. Echo Amphitheater. Appropriately named and steeped in legend, the echoes resounding from the concave walls of the amphitheater might sound a tiny bit like the anguished cries of the dead, until you “throw” a hearty laugh. And all those red streaks staining the walls are really Desert Varnish and not the blood of those pushed from the top. While these stories have been passed down for nearly 150 years, the rocks reveal the geologic history of the area dating back more than 250 million years. They tell of ancient sea beds, rivers, sand dunes, and the wildlife that used to roam here. Wind, water and climate helped to color and layer the rocks from the bottom to the top of this entire area. And lucky us ….. We camped just below these beautiful sandstone and limestone cliffs. Wow! The sunrise was breathtaking!

Echo Amphitheater

Heron Lake State Park. Day 2 of our Escapito found us exploring a lesser known New Mexico State Park just south of the Colorado border. Heron Lake (and her sister lake El Vado) are reservoirs along the Chama River drainage that receive water from the San Juan Basin in southern Colorado, and hold this water until needed downstream in the Rio Grande. But drought in the region keeps Heron Lake water levels low. Even 3-4 foot tall ponderosa pines have taken hold in the few hundred yards of sandstone exposed between the lake and the high water line. But the people fishing from the shore and the osprey spotting fish from overhead seemed fine with the water levels as they are. We enjoyed many forays into the lake’s surrounding pine forest, found sign of mule deer and elk, and discovered several new-to-me flowers. It was a very pleasant stay.

Heron Lake looking north
Wildflowers everywhere!

Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area and Overlook Campground. Day 3 of our reservoir tour we spent just southeast of the village of Chimayo at the base of the Sange de Cristo Mountains. Here, the Bureau of Land Management manages a beautiful recreation area surrounding Santa Cruz Lake. Snow melt fills this reservoir to the brim and makes for some great views from Overlook Campground. Although the campground is very weedy (a result of livestock grazing) everything was bathed in green, and I was delighted to discover 2 new-to-me species of flowers in the nightshade (potato) family. It was fun talking with a couple of “en plein air” landscape artists who had come up from Santa Fe for a day of painting, who inspired me to try a few sketches of the reservoir.

Inspiring scenery
Santa Cruz Lake view from Overlook Campground
Scenery surrounding Santa Cruz Lake

Thanks for coming along!


  1. Wow, wow! Another adventure in “The Felix!” You’ve inspired me to get back there one day and explore up into Georgia O’Keefe country. How fun that you chatted with some plein air artists! I bet that rock from the amphitheater would make great pigment paint – something I’m studying in my “Master of Field Arts” book. Love the Wyoming Paintbrush! Thanks for sharing your trip!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks tremendously Karen! Your comments are always so encouraging. I’m not sure about rock pigments from the upper layers, but I’ll bet the very erosive lower (Entrada) red, very red sandstone would work like a charm! Such gorgeous country. I wasn’t surprised to find Santa Fe artists open air painting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sarah Reid says:

    As ALWAYS I love your journal! Your layouts are so incredibly inspiring. I think: oooo! That’s a great idea, then I find myself stumped when I start doing some of my own pages. That said, I am going to share a couple with you via email that I have done recently. I really appreciate you sharing your nature journaling. Are you going to attend 2022 Wild Wonder?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my gosh! I’m in awe of your comments! Thanks so much Sarah. I’ve received your email messages and look forward to seeing your recent work. I took a sneak peak and found your really awesome beaver ponds page. Stay tuned for comments. No, I’m not planning to attend Wild Wonder this year. Too many other happenings in my world right now. I’ve attended in the past and loved it. If you’re going, have a blast. I know you will. Thanks so much for following my posts and especially for sharing your work! Brilliant!


  3. elainebhills says:

    How could you not want to go camping in that area once reading your blog?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Such a nice thing to say, Elaine! When are you guys coming back to go camping with us??


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