Though the Rio Grande runs through the heart of New Mexico’s biggest city, you can easily miss it. Even from places where you’d expect to see water — designated parking areas near the river or paths along which you carry a boat to cast off from the nearest bank — it’s often invisible behind a screen of cottonwoods. Through much of the city, it hides behind businesses, warehouses, and strip malls.
From the riverbank or on the river itself, these curtains create a rare reprieve, a place in an urban area that can be mistaken for a pocket of wild. City noise infrequently penetrates the cottonwoods that beat back the heat and hum with insects and birdsong on summer days. The river often runs a murky, reddish beige that matches its muddy banks.