Friday, February 14, 2020

Ride: North Diversion Channel

Albuquerque, New Mexico is right in the middle of the desert in the southwestern United States, so you may think that it never rains in the city.  But it is at high elevation and right next to some mountains, and it benefits from the norther New Mexico "monsoon season": during the late summer, afternoon thunderstorms roll through the city several times a week.  It's good to avoid getting caught on one of these storms when you're on a bike, as they can be very intense.  But the bright side of these storms is the great network of trails that they have indirectly created.

As Albuquerque grew throughout the first half of the 1900s, the flash floods that these regular thunderstorms could create became more and more problematic.  By the early 1960s, the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority (AMAFCA) was founded to start creating a system of arroyos around town that could help mitigate these floods.  While natural desert arroyos are just dry streambeds that opportunistically carry rainwater away, the AMAFCA arroyos are carefully planned, high-tech valleys within the city that efficiently carry water away from the city and its streets, houses, and businesses.  The North Diversion Channel is perhaps the most important arroyo of all, as its deep V-shaped concrete walls collect water from feeder arroyos all over the city and direct it to the Rio Grande.  From there, the water flows all of the way out to the Gulf of Mexico.

Much like old railroad right-of-ways and urban streams, the banks of these arroyos work well for building bike paths.  The North Diversion Channel itself runs from the University of New Mexico campus in the south to the Balloon Fiesta Park in the north and on to the Rio Grande, and the nine miles between UNM and the Balloon Fiesta Park has a paved, off-street path along it the entire way.  This path passes under all of the major streets along its way, including Interstate 40 and Interstate 25, and it links up with several other arroyo trails that reach other parts of the city.  This makes the trail a pleasant recreational path as well as a path to use when commuting between UNM and the rest of the city.  Just keep in mind that most of the path is unshaded, and Albuquerque's elevation is higher than 5000 feet.  Remember your sunscreen and water!

If you would like to plan a ride along the North Diversion Channel trail, you can get started at the Wireless Bike Map.

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