Thousands upon thousands of fans and the curious descend upon Roswell every July for the Alienfest. You will also find the International UFO Museum and various trading posts busy with tourists throughout the year. But did you know that there are two large nature spots just a few miles outside of Roswell?
I visited Bottomless Lakes for a day trip in June 2021 and Bitter Lake in August 2021. There is a large visitor’s center at Bitter Lake that is currently closed but the hiking trails and driving tour are both open. Fall and winter is the time to see all the migrating birds, including thousands of Sandhill Cranes, but I was still fortunate to be able to photograph several species, including stilts and a heron.
At Bottomless Lakes, I drove through the campground, parked at the picnic area and walked down to the largest swimming lake, chatted with the workamper couple who mans the little visitor’s center, and took the scenic drive around the park. There are numerous smaller lakes along the route and several primitive camping spots (non-reservable).
Bitter Lake Wildlife Refuge is free and is open during daylight hours. Bottomless Lakes State Park has a $5 fee for day use and a separate fee for camping. Annual passes are also available for purchase.
In the desert, structures and remnants of lives don’t ever go away completely. The skeletons of abodes, fences, abandoned recreational vehicles, old barns can be seen dotting the landscape amongst the tumbleweeds and creosote. I first noticed this when I spent two years driving back and forth across the country in my motor home. I traversed Interstate 40 and Interstate 10, sun-bright yellow land contrasted by blue, blue skies flashing by at sixty or sixty-five miles an hour. I travelled less used byways and county roads at a much more leisurely pace through Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, slowing to gawk at derelict motels or restaurants abandoned alongside the road.
Several months ago, I decided to park the motorhome, buy a trailer and settle down in one spot, Lakewood, New Mexico. I was now in the middle of a couple hundred acres of grazing cattle and about two miles from the nearest highway. I can cross over a set of railroad tracks to get to the little post office set up in a trailer but there are no buildings or other businesses to speak of. At least I didn’t think there were. The reasons I picked the spot had nothing to do with the history or the landscape but when I learned about the thriving community that was this place a hundred years ago, I was hooked.
Now the freight trains just blare their horn and pass through during the night. But there was a passenger stop along the route at Lakewood, originally called McMillan, with a saloon, drug store, and post office, in the late 1890s (http://genealogytrails.com/newmex/eddy/dayton.html).
In 1911, The Lakewood Canning Factory was built. The building is still standing although the business closed permanently in 1922. I’ve driven around trying to find the remains of other town buildings but it’s all private property now with secured gates.
If you do a current Google search on Lakewood, NM, you will learn that the population in Lakewood (zip 88254) is 31. There are 1 people per square mile aka population density. I don’t think that takes in to account the mobile home park I live at but otherwise, quite true. I believe there are more abandoned buildings and vehicles than residents in these parts. But it’s alive with history and, if you’re observant, the pieces left behind.