When my husband and I first moved here from San Diego to retire, I was so excited to hear about “the beach.” I was anxious to feel the warm sand between my toes again!
I have to admit, I was a little disappointed when I arrived at Tingley Beach in Albuquerque. Actually, I was very disappointed! I didn’t expect an ocean here in the high desert, but maybe water with some sand and a few waves?
Here’s what we found instead: three large fishing ponds, pedal boats and miniature model boats, walking paths, picnic areas and a beautiful variety of ducks, geese and other waterfowl, right off Central Avenue.
After living in Albuquerque now for 15 years, Tingley Beach has become my family’s oasis in the desert, our go-to place where memories have been made and are in the making. I can’t count the number of times we have taken our granddaughter, Anneliese, there to feed the ducks and geese. Once when she was just learning to run, she took off chasing a duck and almost fell in the water.
The beach is part of the ABQ BioPark—along with the BioPark Zoo, Aquarium and Botanic Garden—but while the other sites of the park charge admission, entry to Tingley Beach is free every day of the year, from sunrise to sunset.
The three fishing ponds are stocked about every two weeks by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Central Pond, the largest of the three, is stocked with rainbow trout in the winter and channel catfish in the summer. You can also rent pedal boats on Central Pond in the summer months, by the hour or half-hour, for ages 3 and up.
The Children’s Pond is also stocked with trout and catfish and is exclusively for ages 12 and under. Adults can accompany kids on the Children’s Pond, but they can’t fish there.
The Bob Gerding Catch and Release Pond, on the quieter, southern end of the beach, is stocked with rainbow trout for fishing with flies or barbless hooks. And there’s even a small Model Boat Pond, for miniature wind or remote-control boats.
Anneliese is 13 now, and we don’t see her as often as we’d like because I understand grandparents can be boring when you’re a teenager. Enter Anneliese’s 5-year-old brother, Andrew. No empty nest for us two old coots! We’ve been taking Andrew to the beach to feed the ducks and geese since he was a baby in a stroller eating Cheerios. (That reminds me: Don’t feed bread to the ducks and geese! It’s not good for their stomachs. The many water birds at Tingley Beach are all wild animals. The BioPark does not maintain these birds, but they do try to protect the welfare of all animals that can be found at their facilities. According to staff, water birds need a diet based on grain and insects. Bread has limited nutritional value and can be harmful, especially to developing ducklings.)
The fishing ponds are adjacent to the paved Paseo del Bosque Trail and a large park with trees, play equipment and picnic tables. We usually take our grandson on Fridays, which Andrew calls Fun Fridays. We take a picnic lunch—and let me tell you, that picnic basket carries plenty of memories! Restrooms, water fountains and vending machines are available inside the historic Tingley train station, and there are even two charcoal grills for public use except when fire danger is high.
Although admission to Tingley Beach is free, anglers age 12 and up are required to have a fishing license. Annual fishing licenses for New Mexico residents are $25 for adults, $5 for ages 12 to 17, $8 for seniors 65 to 69, and free for anyone over 70. Children 11 and under don’t need a license to fish. Nonresident and short-term passes are also available. Purchase them online at wildlife.state.nm.us/fishing/licenses-permits or from any sporting goods store. From the looks of all the people fishing during our visits and from what they told us, the fishing is great!
A day at the beach is an easy drive and fun summer day trip for Santa Fe residents. No swimming, surfing or wading is allowed, so it’s best to leave your floaties, surfboards and inner tubes home. Enjoy a nice summer day with the sounds of children playing and ducks quacking. Don’t forget your hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Before you know it, you’ll be making memories of your own!
Gloria Valdez lives in Albuquerque with her husband, daughter and two grandchildren.