Editor's note: This is part of The Daily Times' outdoors bucket list. On the last Thursday of each month in 2014, we'll bring you a feature on a spot in the Four Corners that you should check out.
FARMINGTON — Even people who love where they live occasionally yearn to explore new areas. But sometimes all you need is a new perspective to appreciate what's in your backyard.
Samantha Miller, 21, grew up in Farmington and now is a nursing student at the University of New Mexico. This Saturday marked her first Farmington river trip.
Know the access points on the Animas, San Juan
There are many "put ins" and "take outs" along the Animas and San Juan rivers throughout Aztec, Farmington, Bloomfield and Kirtland. No one should get on the river without proper training and equipment. For a complete map of river access points, go to www.riverreachfoundation.com.
Next month's Bucket List item: We asked our readers to select the next spot we're featuring as part of the Bucket List series. Via a poll on The Daily Times's website, you chose Monument Valley, which beat out Arches National Park, Engineer Mountain and the Colorado Trail. Monument Valley, with its iconic buttes and towers, represents the American Southwest to the rest of the world. Actually not a valley at all, it is a vast open area on the Navajo Nation. It may seem the only thing to do there is drive through and take in the sights, but next month you will read about other ways to appreciate this amazing desert landscape. Thank you for voting!
"It is neat recognizing places you're used to seeing from up top, from the river," she said after her raft ride, which left from Penny Lane, a river access point on the Animas River between Flora Vista and Farmington, and ended on the San Juan River at Westland Park in southwest Farmington. "It looks so different from down below."
While letting Mild to Wild raft guides tote you down the river during Riverfest earlier this month is a great opportunity to get on the water, the possibilities do not end there.
Jim Luther is the president of the River Reach Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes and protects area rivers.
Luther's favorite way to enjoy the river is by canoe, taking off from Penny Lane and paddling south of Farmington. Since he expects to get dumped at least once during every ride, he waits until the heat of the summer to embark on his river trips.
"I'm more of a warm weather guy," he said.
From land, the rivers can always be spotted near greenery. So it's only natural that on the river one is surrounded by the cottonwood trees and overpowering Russian olive that line the banks.
In some areas, the trees seclude boaters from the hustle and bustle of the community. And in other spots, the river goes right up to the city. Just as you may start to wonder where you are, you look up and see the recognizable white and green corners of Red Lobster.
Luther said a big draw to river recreation in the area is the wildlife.
"You can see eagles, blue heron, deer, turkey, swans, occasionally muskrats," he said.
A river tour can be a reminder of how Farmington and Bloomfield got their names. Before the oil and gas boom in the mid-1900s, Farmington's big industry was apple orchards, and Bloomfield was mainly farmland.
Following the Animas River's trail through Aztec and Flora Vista, nothing but farmland can be seen peeking through the shrubbery for long stretches. Before getting on the river, a visit to the Riverside Nature Center or Gateway Museum for background information would make the trip more fulfilling.
Heading south on the Animas, the bluffs of Farmington can be seen in the distance and then towering overhead before long. From the river may be the closest option for taking in this distinct Farmington landmark. Once the Animas River passes its passengers to the San Juan River, the bluffs that line the southern border of Farmington and then Kirtland stand steadily along the San Juan's "river left."
At the confluence of the two rivers, the transition is smooth, but the combining of the waters is apparent as they swirl together and eventually become the San Juan River.
Although the rivers are part of the community, they also flow through private land. There are plenty of public river access points, as well as parks, along the river, so there's no reason to step on private property for any reason.
Luther said he was happy to see the community out at Berg Park for Riverfest.
"But you shouldn't have to throw a party to bring people to the river," he said.