New Mexico's

"Home on the Range"


Kiowa National Grasslands

The Kiowa National Grassland includes 12 miles of the Canadian River Canyon. The well-paved Hwy 39, from Roy to Mills and the Canadian River Canyon actually travels through the Kiowa National Grasslands. There aren't welcome signs, just the sturdy green bunches of gramma grasses that manage to survive drought, cattle, wind and questionable soil.

The Kiowa are part of a national grasslands system that also include the Rita Blanca, McClellan Creek and Black Kettle. These four grasslands are administered for the U.S. Department of Agriculture by the Cibola National Forest and cover 263,954 acres scattered throughout New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma and are part of the Panhandle National Grassland. In New Mexico, the grasslands are in Harding, Mora and Union counties. The biggest grassland attractions are Lake McClellan, Lake Marvin, Spring Creek Lake and Skipout Lake, where water-related recreation activities are available. The Forest Service has developed camp and picnic grounds at these lakes for the public's convenience and enjoyment.

In addition to their recreational value, the grasslands furnish feed for cattle and wildlife and provide protection to important watersheds -- plus, a number of producing oil and gas wells contribute to the local economy.

Originally, these areas were plowed for farming, but because of poor soil, recurrent drought and other factors they became part of the Great Plains Dust Bowl in the 1930's, when their top soil blew away. The federal government purchased 55,000 acres of cropland in the Mills area during the depression years and they were reseeded to grassland agriculture. The grasslands are now largely revegetated. Successful restoration has permitted game and bird habitat to be reestablished, thus fostering the growth of resident bird and animal populations.

The grasslands furnish food, cover and water for a wide variety of wildlife. Wildlife varies as much as does the climate over the wide expanse of country which these units cover. The Black Kettle National Grassland is in an intermediate moisture zone, which provides habitat for wild turkey and white-tailed deer. Antelope and mule and white-tailed deer roam both the Rita Blanca and Kiowa grasslands. Scaled quail are found throughout the grasslands, and pheasant hunting is available on the Rita Blanca and Kiowa National Grasslands.

On the National Grasslands, land patterns are very complex because of the intermingled federal, state, and private lands. Due to these circumstances the U.S. Forest Service does not control or manage many of the parcels found within the designated grassland boundary.

the Forest Service promotes the use and access to Mills Canyon and the scenic Canadian River via the Mills Road 600. This is the only "Public" access to the Canadian River and it is by National Forest System Road (NFSR) 600 or NFSR 600. They do not promote any other access to the river. A private individual using any other route without an agreement or permission would be in trespass. The responsibility is on the hiker to know where they are at and the local and/or state rules of trespass and private land ownership rights.

The New Mexico State Department of Transportation (DOT) would have a right-of-way or easement across the Canadian River for the Roy to Wagon Mound Road. The DOT typically does not acquire any additional access other than for the road way. As far as the Forest Service knows there are no arrangements with the private land owner for access to the river or north along the river at that location.