Monday, March 31, 2008

Bottomless Lakes State Park

We drove down to see the Bottomless Lakes a couple of weeks ago. The name has always intrigued me and I wanted to see that part of southeastern New Mexico. Here is what I learned.

The chain of eight lakes is located in southeast New Mexico near Roswell (of UFO fame) and the Bitter Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. The area was set aside as New Mexico's first State Park in 1933.

The lakes aren't really bottomless. According to the official brochure handed out at the Visitor Center, they are "actually sinkholes that range from 17 to 90 feet deep. They were formed when circulating water dissolved salt and gypsum deposits to form subterranean caverns. Eventually, the roofs of the cavern collapsed from their own weight. Sinkholes resulted and soon filled with water and formed the existing lakes."

The Visitor Center was filled with interactive displays. I tested different types of water, compared the depth of the different lakes, and read a bit about the local flora and fauna. I learned there and from a wonderful New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources (NMBGMR) website that the lakes are actually cenotes, "small perennial lakes within deep, steep-walled sinkholes that extend below the water table." Unlike other lakes that have water flowing in and out via streams, their water supply comes from underground springs and their water loss is through evaporation.

I would encourage you to check out that NMBGMR website. It tells of legends associated with the lakes--I like the one about objects lost in the lakes turning up in Carlsbad Caverns over a hundred miles away--and it details the geology of the area, including information about "Pecos Diamonds." Here is one last quote from the site, this time about the animals found in the area: "Rare and endangered species are found in the park. The small Pecos pupfish and rainwater killifish live in the lakes. The eastern barking frog and the cricket frog, also endangered species, live in the park. Their croaking can be heard throughout the day. Other animals include deer, skunk, snakes, lizards, jackrabbits, and birds."
Lea Lake, the largest of the chain, is home to a recreational area that includes tent and RV camp sites, a bathhouse, a year-round swimming beach, and pedal boat rentals during the summer months.
There are bike trails throughout the park, and a 3-mile mountain bike trail above the lake area out on the plains. We plan to go back down for an adventure-filled Zee Camping Weekend soon.

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