*The Rio Grande cottonwood Populus wislizeni, as pictured above, is limited in native habitat to water courses. The trees can be large, sometimes growing to a height of 100 feet, with trunks four or more feet in diameter, and may be found along the Rio Grande River from Mexico to southern Colorado. In southern New Mexico, such trees are fast disappearing from their native riparian environment.
The cottonwood is a natural part of the environment, and furnishes choice browse for elk and deer, as well as excellent cover for all wildlife that frequent the river and adjacent wooded bosques along streams. Since the cottonwood requires water close to its roots, early travelers used its presence to signal a good spot to dig for water in the sands along the water course.
The cottonwood tree adding a touch of color to the river valleys is a signal of late fall in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and even in Colorado, where at times it can rival the beauty of the aspen trees. If one is fortunate, one may come upon a scene such as the above. Here, in the late evening, a Rio Grande cottonwood in golden fall colors is reflected in a quiet pool. We have found a few such spots as this, each beautiful, each unique. Never do the scenes repeat themselves, and the finding more than rewards the effort in location.