In the late 1960s, the Atomic Energy Commission disposed many of its land holdings within the community of Los Alamos. Two significant parcels to the east of the townsite were deeded to the County with the restriction that they be maintained for recreational use.
Thus, Deer Trap and Kwage mesas essentially became the first Los Alamos County Open Space. Both mesas extend for more than a mile east, from the end of the streets of Barranca and North mesas. Deer Trap Mesa has three fingers that end in viewpoints; Kwage Mesa has a single point that offers long-distance views. Each of the mesa tips are viewpoints for the Lower Canyons vista. Encompassed in the vista is lower Pueblo, Bayo, Barrancas, and Rendija canyons.
The mesa points sit on the upper layers of the Bandelier tuff, and each overlook the surrounding canyons. The elevation change from rim to canyon bottom ranges from 400 to 600 feet. The canyon bottoms hold a mix of juniper savannah and ponderosa pines stands. South-facing slopes are dotted with thin stands of piñon, juniper, and an occasional ponderosa pine. The north-facing slopes hold ponderosa pine stands with some Douglas fir.
The view from Kwage Mesa into Bayo Canyon includes some of the lowest elevation Douglas fir stands in New Mexico. The tan and buff cliffs of Bandelier tuff dominate the scene from each viewpoint. Sheer cliffs lie immediately below the sloping mesa tops. The pastel cliffs are banded orange and white, each color representing a different eruption of the Valles Caldera to the west. The cliff bands form continues lines on the landscape, tailing off into the Rio Grande rift.