Dead Horse Opens New Passage to La Fragua Canyon
8,660 acres of enhanced public access
In a land scattered with piñons, ponderosas, sagebrush and the occasional oil and gas pad, locals share tales of record-book bucks that roam the landscape along with bands of wild horses—and some monster elk, too. Lying in New Mexico’s Carson National Forest just south of the Colorado border, the place is known as La Fragua Canyon. In Spanish, that translates to “the forge.”
It’s hard to say whether the canyon got its name because the place can be hot and hard enough to test the character of man and beast alike. But it recently took on a fine new meaning when land and wildlife managers hammered out a solution that guarantees permanent public access to this isolated 8,660-acre expanse of national forest and state land.
In 2010, private landowners gated access to La Fragua Road, shutting down one of the only ways to reach the canyon other than by hiking many parched miles. That inspired folks in New Mexico Game and Fish’s Open Gate Program (OGP) and the U.S. Forest Service to seek a better solution. Together they identified a spot where building a short spur road off Forest Road 309—aka Dead Horse Tank Road—could permanently reopen La Fragua.
Although best known for big muleys, this area’s varied terrain climbs from low mesas and canyons to high forested ridges—giving elk everything they need to thrive. It provides superb hunting opportunities, too, delivering a 35 percent success rate for elk.
RMEF contributed $12,500 to help build the new spur road, and the state covered the remainder of the $50,000 project. It not only secures public access, but should further enhance habitat as well through future prescribed burns, juniper thinning and work to sustain water sources. The new road opened last June.
“The hunting in that area is awesome,” says Gary Calkins, Open Gate coordinator. “It has really dependable water that makes it just a magnet for deer and elk. For the public to have access to it again is a big win.”