picture of ice in dalton canyon
image © Robert Luis Chavez

Dalton Canyon... 8" x 10" sepia toned
Ice and snow in Dalton Canyon.


Dalton Canyon was one of Frank Howell's favorite places to photograph. Not many people know that Frank Howell was a fine photographer in addition to his many other artistic talents. When Kent Bowser started printing for Frank he also got to travel with him, mostly on day trips in driving distance from Santa Fe. Eventually, I took pictures there as well, with winter producing some of the images I like best. I went with Frank and Kent several times to photograph Dalton Canyon. I still have fond memories of Kent and I resorting to booger talk to pay back Frank for making us listen to Rush Limbaugh on the way.


A few days ago a fire that was probably deliberately set raged through large parts of the canyon, early estimates were 500 to 800 acres burned. Assisted by moderate winds, firefighters mounted a ground and air assault with helicopters and tankers to contain the fire. The smoke was most visible the first day and from my residence in Canada De Los Alamos the 8 or 10 mile distance looks like it is just over the hill from here. This was very reminiscent of the huge Pecos fire in the Summer of 2000 right in the same area. The next morning I awoke to the return of aircraft overhead, the smoke was there, but not billowing like the day before. So far the fire has been stopped from spreading north towards either the Santa Fe or Pecos Watersheds.

The steep and narrow Dalton Canyon has a small stream that ponds in places and eventually joins the Pecos River a few miles north of Pecos proper. The ponds are home to waterfowl, beaver, frogs and salamander. I can only imagine the devastation wreaked by the fire in these tinder dry conditions, two days of rain in two or three months after a bone dry winter. Fire is a natural part of the forest's cycle, however these hot "crowning" fires are the most damaging kind.