Respite at MW Bar Ranch

by Mike and Tina Stallard

We were delighted and surprised to win the NMT Raffle for a two night stay at the MW Bar Ranch in Northern New Mexico, on the Rio Costilla and the gateway to the Valle Vidal. We had never visited this part of New Mexico, and we were eagerly anticipating our visit which we arranged for mid-October. The weather turned crisp and a light snow fell early that month, but for our getaway weekend the weather was forecast to be sunny and cool, with light winds, and a full moon.

345About an hour north of Taos, just south of the Colorado border, we turned east on NM 196 and winded our way through this charming valley to arrive before sunset at the MW Bar Ranch. What a beautiful sight to see this gorgeous two story log cabin with its stately green tin roof, nestled in the cottonwoods, framed by pink hills overlooking the Rio Costilla.

We were warmly greeted by our gracious hosts Mary Ann Walz and Lawrence Montoya, and enjoyed learning about the history of their bed and breakfast, the local area, and recreation opportunities. Mary Ann and Lawrence have been in business for nine years, and have enjoyed the quiet life in the countryside and entertaining a variety of guests, including fisherpersons, hunters, artists, hikers and seekers of solitude. The ranch is located in the Rio Costilla valley, and is home of a variety of wildlife including deer, elk, bear, turkey, ruffed grouse and golden eagles.

The ranch has two rooms in the main lodge and a separate cabin which we had reserved. The cozy cabin has a comfortable queen bed, a well appointed kitchen with all the utensils and cooking supplies we needed, a private bathroom, and a wood burning stove which kept the room warm and comortable. We enjoyed sumptuous breakfasts with our hosts and listened eagerly to their tips about fishing in the area, including the private stretch of the Rio Costilla in their backyard.

343This small river flows from the Costilla reservoir on the Vermejo Park Ranch, south through the meadows of the Valle Vidal and then heads west though a small canyon to the private lands of the Rio Costilla Cooperative Livestock Association (RCCLA) and the farmlands further west. Flows from the reservoir are regulated and slow to a trickle in October, and resume in spring. The Valle Vidal section is only open to fishing from Jul-Dec, to relieve pressure on and allow spawning of the native Rio Grande cutthroat. The section of the river through the RCCLA is open year round, thanks to an agreement with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Comanche Creek is a small tributary of the Rio Costilla, and offers exciting fishing in this small stream with undercut banks and small pools. The work of NMT is evident in the many elk exclosures on various sections of this stream.

We had a delightful time exploring the area which included ample opportunities to fish for the Rio Grande Cutthroat trout. Even though the flows were low, and sections of the river were iced over, we were successful in luring a few of the colorful cutthroats with small beadhead nymphs.

This bed and breakfast is highly recommended for a relaxing respite in the country, either for fishing, hiking, wildlife watching, or simply a quiet getaway. We are grateful for the support of Mary Ann and Lawrence to NMT, and we encourage you to visit them at your next opportunity. More information is available at

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