The purpose of the Desert Oasis Nature Park is three-fold:

Preservation – Recreation – Education


The Desert Oasis Nature Park

An Oasis? You’ve Got To Be Kidding!    

On frozen pondThe basis of an oasis is simple indeed!  It is a fertile area in a desert or semi desert environment where water  is found and a habitat for animals and plants is created.  And yes, my friends, you can find and enjoy just such a place that is being developed right here in Rio Rancho.

The Desert Oasis Nature Park is being created at the historic East Lakes of what was once the Club Rio Rancho golf course.  The park will serve three purposes:  Preservation, Recreation and Education.  It will also serve some of the goals of the Rio Rancho Comprehensive Plan: To preserve water resources; to preserve vegetation and natural resources; and to support wildlife habitat.

Some of the features of this new  Desert Oasis Nature Park envisioned for the future include:

    • All the existing vegetation in the park will be identified and as much as possible, only vegetation native to New Mexico will be retained or added. In fact, every desert plant in the state will be sought, identified and added to the park.
    • All existing golf course cart paths will be accessible.
    • The entrance to the park will be at the cart path crossing on East Lake Drive just outside the entrance to The Islands at Rio Rancho and will include “Handicapped Parking” to allow easy access.
    • A shoreline walking nature trail will be cleared to provide for health and wellness activities.
    • Near the trailhead (again at the cart path crossing) are a number of sand hillocks may be cleared to provide miniature “sand dunes” for children to play on.
    • In shady areas along the trail, sites will be cleared for picnic table, grill and trash can for public enjoyment and perhaps for a fee, appropriate food for fish and fowl may be provided.
    • Classes from local schools will be invited to visit the shoreline trail with their teacher(s) to learn about all the natural features.
    • Volunteer individuals and groups with special interests will be invited to share in the development and operation of the Desert Oasis Nature Park.

The Historic East Lakes

Golfers who played the old golf courses will remember all seven of the original lakes.  The three on the West Nine and two on the North Nine were destroyed to make way for future development and Open Space.  A struggle ensued to preserve the East Lakes and to allow for the creation of the nature park. 

All seven lakes were created to provide for the aesthetic enjoyment of the courses, to add to the challenge of playing over and around them, but most of all to provide for the irrigation required for fairways and greens.  The East Lakes were the point of origin for irrigation as they received the reclaimed water from the Rio Rancho treatment facilities.  The water was then pumped to the additional lakes from which it was pumped further through the irrigation system watering the entire golf course.  The East Lakes were therefore the “Mother Lakes”.

However, recent studies have revealed that the nature of the East Lakes has evolved to become best defined as an “Oasis” which now is the centerpiece for the Desert Oasis Nature Park.



A “Schoolroom of Nature”

The Biotic Communities at the Desert Oasis

A Biotic community is a distinct grouping of plants and animals and the interaction among them.

Ecology is the study of living things in relation to each other and to their environment.  These environments, or homes in which particular plants and animals have become adapted to live, comprise their biotic community.

An Ecosystem is all the plants and animals in a given area along with their physical environment.

All living things are tied to their environment by a multitude of invisible strands.  These strands are found in the various physical conditions; soil, air, water and light, and in the relationships; competition, cooperation, and neutrality, between species living together alongside one another.

Many interactions in the world of living things help create its physical environment.  Without the organic matter provided by living organisms, there could be no soil, only inert mineral particles.  The soil that develops is important in determining the kinds of plants that can grow in it.  These plants, in turn, support specific animals.  The very atmosphere of this planet, carbon dioxide and oxygen, both necessary for plant and animal life, is produced by plants and animals.

The world is comprised of biomes determined by the predominant vegetation in any given region.  Each biome possesses its characteristic combination of plants and animals; of temperature and soil and rainfall.  A biome can consist of a belt of coniferous forest across northern America, a tundra in Alaska, or a semi-arid high desert found here in the Desert Oasis Nature Park.

There are four Biome Communities here in the Nature Park:

Desert Community; Riparian Community; Aquatic Community,
and Avian Community

The Desert Community

Coyote on the Oasis

The semi-arid landscape receives its water from precipitation and surface run off.  The best way to understand the desert biome is by examining the various communities within it.  A great variety of desert vegetation is found within the park and occurs naturally.  The dominant animal community is of the insect variety – the ant.  Numerous colonies of ants reside in the desert and since they nest underground, their presence is only detected by the ant hills they build.  Latest ant census-takers report they are too numerous to count!  Larger animals visit the park on occasion.  Groups of Coyotes have been seen often and one sighting of a Bobcat has been reported.

The Riparian Community

The word riparian is from the Latin word “ripa” meaning water’s edge.  Riparian areas are defined as including “vegetation, habitats, or ecosystems that are associated with bodies of water.”     Riparian ecosystems are dominated by plants that have a high demand for water.  Here at the Oasis, deciduous trees and herbaceous plants are most noticeable.  When created, the East Lakes had no riparian characteristics.  But over many years, what now grows here was attracted by the Oasis water.  This area is important as it provides shady and moist habitat which is conducive to plant and animal diversity.

The Aquatic Community

The aquatic community includes all the plants and animals living in or on the perennial waters of the East Lakes.  Although they are not easily seen, a great variety of fish swim beneath the waters.  None of them are natural, of course, since the source of water is not natural.  None of them have swum here from nearby streams.  All have been released into the waters by unknown hands.  Many are of the Koi or Carp families.  Many are Goldfish.  Some tiny “worker fish” have been released and their job is to help control the mosquito population as they feed on eggs and larvae.  On the surface of the lakes, a wide variety of waterfowl can be observed daily.  The Canada Goose are common as are Mallards.  They are often residents of the Oasis.  Occasionally, Blue Herons and Black-crowned Night Herons come fishing.  But many species of waterfowl appear seasonally or visit the lakes during migration.  Coots, Common Mergansers, Pied-billed Grebes, Ruddy Duck, Ring Necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Wood Duck, American Widgeon, Gadwall, and numerous others have been reported.

The Avian Community

Above it all, soars the one community that is not “earth-bound.”  A wide variety of birds may be observed throughout the vegetative areas of the park depending on the time of day and season of the year.  Hummingbirds come and go during their migrations.  Some extraordinary visitors during the winter of 2020 were a small group of American White Pelicans.  In addition to those found on the shoreline – Great Blue Heron, Black-Crowned Night Heron and Snowy Egret – treetops, shrubs and grasses play host to other visitors.  Belted Kingfisher, Great Horned Owl, Osprey, Killdeer. Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Swainson’s Hawk, Black Phoebe, Red-Winged Blackbird and Yellow-headed Blackbird have all been observed above and around the Oasis.  The Avian Community attracts some special two-legged guests to the park with their familiar binoculars and notebooks.

Perhaps one of the true wonders of the Desert Oasis Nature Park is found in the fact that no two days are the same in the park.  The scene changes constantly within and between all the biotic communities.


Contact Us

Desert Oasis Nature Park

Desert Oasis Nature Park is owned and operated by the newly formed Desert Oasis Nature Park a 501c3 non-profit.

Desert Oasis Nature Park preserves the historic East Lakes of Rio Rancho, New Mexico which have evolved to become the Oasis At The Park. The park also includes 36 acres of the high desert Open Space.

Desert Oasis Nature Park provides public recreation opportunities with its Riparian Nature Trail that includes distance markers and occasional exercise stations.  Paved trails in the park provide for hiking and biking.

Desert Oasis Nature Park provides opportunities for education as it invites visitors to learn the identity of the many native plants, trees and shrubs as well as the vegetation which has been attracted by the waters of the oasis.  Visitors may also learn about the aquatic animals living in the lakes as well as the many birds and water fowls that are either residents of the lakes or migratory visitors.  Various types of sand and soil are also identified in the park.

Desert Oasis Nature Park serves goals of the Rio Rancho Comprehensive Plan:  To preserve water resources; to preserve vegetation and natural resources; and to support wildlife habitat.