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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Brand New Aquatic Park on the San Juan River at Hammond Tract

The newly created aquatic park and recreation area at the 
Hammond Tract on the San River about 
14 miles south of Navajo Dam.
Anglers visiting the San Juan River this summer will discover a new 80-acre aquatic park featuring plenty of fishing improvements, lots of shady cottonwood trees and one of the best swimming holes on the river.

Carved out of a nearly impenetrable forest of water-robbing salt cedar and thorny Russian olive trees the state Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) has turned its Hammond Tract into what should become a very popular recreational area.
Marc Wethington, Fisheries Biologist on the San Juan River 
for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish,
 points out from an overlook the amount of  work
 done to clear invasive trees at Hammond Tract.
Acquired in the late 1980s from the federal government the property is located about 14 miles south of the town of Navajo Dam and for years was nothing more than a rutted dirt road ending at a hole hacked through the trees where boaters could land.

Now there’s a new concrete boat take-out ramp, an improved parking lot and a fresh outhouse. The invasive trees have been cleared away while the towering cottonwoods remain along with newly planted native vegetation.
Visitors to the Hammond Tract recreation area and aquatic park
will find a ample parking and a new outhouse for their convenience.
A small creek now flows under a canopy of cottonwood trees into a newly created pond to benefit waterfowl while 15 in-stream structures were installed in the river to improve fishing and water quality.

A new concrete boat ramp at Hammond Tract is fully
extendedinto the river and making landing
 much easier for boaters.
Visitors to the park will find a large pool in the river at the base of the parking lot created by the installation of a ring of boulders that looks like a tempting place to take a cool dip on a hot summer’s day.

A ring of boulders has created a fine wading pool in the
San Juan River at Hammond Tract where
sun baked anglers might be tempted to take a dip.

Anglers will find about a half mile of river running through the park with private property owners to the north and federally owned land to the south, says Marc Wethington, NMDGF’s  Fisheries Biologist stationed on the San Juan River.

Looking south towards the Hammond Diversion dam
visitors can see how thick the invasive Russian olive
and salt cedar trees were before being cleared.
The Hammond project is just the latest in a series of improvements Wethington has overseen in recent years on the river as the department works to maintain high quality fishing conditions despite lower flows from Navajo Dam.

From an vantage point overlooking the San Juan River at
Hammond Tract visitors looking upstream can see just
 how much area has been opened up for recreational use and
benefit to wildlife and fish.
 
The latest project now opens up a whole new area to anglers and others seeking a respite from the crowds that are commonly found on the trophy class waters just below the dam further upstream.

“The solitude here should be a real draw for those seeking some time alone on the river,” Wethington says.

At Hammond Tract one can expect to find an occasional big brown trout lurking in the depths while plenty of stocked rainbows make it an ideal place for those fishing for dinner. The surrounding scenery is bucolic with farm pastures, the Bosque and desert buttes dominating the landscape.

A newly created pond will provide habitat
for waterfowl and other wildife.
The estimated $625,000 project was funded by grants from the State Forestry and the San Juan Soil and Water Conservation District, federal wildlife and sport fish excise taxes on the sale of sporting goods, NMDGF funds and contributions from Conoco Phillips, WPX Energy and the New Mexico Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, said Mike Sloan Chief of Fisheries Management for the NMDGF.

The park is slated to officially reopen to the public in late July or early August to give native grasses planted on site a chance to sprout from expected monsoon rains, Sloan said.

Finding Hammond Tract is just part of the adventure. 
Hammond Tract is reached by an unmarked dirt road off NM 511 just shy of the intersection of US 64. There is no sign for the NMDGF property yet.

Those traveling southwest from Navajo Dam will find it after passing through the village of Turley and climbing a hill marked by a bright green house trailer.  The road will be on the right just under the high power lines, turn in and stay to the left, follow to the power sub-station and then take the turnoff down to the river.

Coming from US 64 visitors will  go 9/10ths of a mile on NM511 and pass two oil and gas well sites on the left before reaching the power lines crossing the road and the turnoff to the left.
Those fishing at Hammond Tract are encouraged to release
 any native brown trout caught in this area as they reproduce
naturally in the river which contributes to making it one of
the best fisheries in the west.The river here will receive
 regular stockings of hybrid rainbow trout of which
anglers can keep up to five a day.
 
This article was originally published in the Albuquerque Journal's "Go" outdoors sports section and can be seen at http://www.abqjournal.com/430413/sports/go/angling-or-solitude.html.

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