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The Pecos

Egret in water 512 X 219Historically the Middle Pecos River was a wide, sediment-laden, braided river with a diversity of habitats, ranging from slow moving backwaters to swift moving waters in the main channels.

These habitats were maintained by natural flooding, which moved sediments between the channel and the floodplain.  This dynamic relationship sculpted a wide channel, moved sediment from the floodplain back into the channel, and formed new floodplains with channel sediment.  The native biology of the Pecos took many life cycle cues from the hydrology and sediment mobility associated with an active floodplain. 

Like many rivers within the Western United States, the Pecos River’s historic functions have been disrupted in order to ensure water supply and safety within a feast or famine hydrologic regime.  The construction of upstream reservoirs allowed greater control of natural upstream flows to meet agricultural and interstate compact obligations as well as provided flood protection for downstream communities. 

North of Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, many of the historic floodplain functions of the river remain intact.  The riparian community is diverse and rich in native biodiversity because of the active channel- floodplain interface.  Here is some of the best habitat in eastern New Mexico for: native fish, including the federally listed Pecos bluntnose shiner; rare migratory birds such as the yellow billed cuckoo; unique amphibians such as the spiny soft shelled turtle; and many diverse native plant communities dependent upon the river.  This quality habitat is in the most likely portion of the Middle Pecos to go dry since the primary source of water is agricultural return flow.  Continually water-flow on the Pecos River begins at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, which can be restored to mirror the habitat to the north in a portion of the river that is always wet. 

Pecos River Restoration: Saltcedar Control - Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge is controlling approximately 2,100 acres of saltcedar along the Pecos River area that is within the refuge. This is being done with funding provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Page Photo Credits — Egret in the water/USFWS, Dragonfly species / USFWS, All photos courtesy of USFWS unless otherwise noted.
Last Updated: Jul 27, 2012
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