Bosque del Apache was chosen by El Defensor Chieftain readers as the best tourist spot around. File photo.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, 1001 State Highway 1, San Antonio, was the El Defensor Chieftain Readers’ Choice for best tourist spot in Socorro County.

There’s a reason that more than 100,000 visitors flock to the sprawling refuge along with Sandhill cranes, snow geese, ducks and other birds for events such as the annual Festival of the Cranes. According to the National Audobon Society, Bosque del Apache is one of the most spectacular national wildlife refuges in North America. There are plenty of areas for visitors to view the birds from observation decks to ponds and fields that are accessible from the tour loops.

Birds are not the only wildlife visitors can see on the refuge. Elk and mule deer may also be seen, although the elk are a little shy, refuge officials say. Other wildlife includes bobcats, coyotes and turkeys. Refuge officials like to point out that there is plenty to see and do on the refuge throughout the year, and not just when the cranes call the refuge home.

Within the borders of the 57,191-acre refuge straddling the Rio Grande valley lie three wilderness areas totaling 30,850 acres, most of which is desert scrub/mesquite and grassland habitat. Day hiking is allowed, however, camping and campfires are not permitted.

The visitor center is open daily 9 a.m.-4 p.m. The tour loop is open daily, from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset. 575-835-1828