From Bottomless Lakes to Valley of Fires


Every time I traveled from Roswell to Bottomless Lakes I was awed by the cloud formations as I came east to the camp ground. Each day there were ‘lines’ of puffy cumulus clouds that caught my eyes as I drove up a steep grade to the road that goes to the park. So I’ve added a photo here of a sample.

The marker for the park explains how the lakes got their name: “When 19th century cowboys attempted to measure these lakes by tying lariats together, they found no bottoms and declared the lakes “bottomless”. Today we know these sink holes, formed by collapsed salt and gypsum deposits, are 17 to 90 feet in depth. The park was established in 1933 as New Mexico’s first state park.” The work and the buildings were done by crews of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

This photo is of the end ‘wall’ of the lake – it is the area where a dome collapsed, most recently in 1975. If you look closely you can see the white leaching of the gypsum out of the sandstone. In the distance is the campground, and the road that curves around to the actual entry to the park. This shot was made from the overlook above the lake.

I left this park on Thursday and arrived at the Valley of Fires BLM recreation area in the early afternoon, after a fairly pleasant drive from Roswell to just west of Carrazozo, a small but very historic town. The town is the county seat of Lincoln County, NM. This county is known for its legendary characters of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, and Smokey the Bear. Smokey was found after a forest fire in the Lincoln National Forest, and he became the icon for prevention of forest fires. When he died he was buried near where he was found.

The Valley of Fires is a lava flow from 1,500 – 5,000 years ago. It is 44 miles long, 2-5 miles wide and 165 feet deep. This is the view from my camp site, on the ridge above the valley floor. I walked along the trail that is visible in this photo, and was amazed at my inability to take it all in…I stopped to rest and appreciate a 400- year old juniper tree. As junipers are very slow growing, the size of the trunk of this tree is extraordinary.

To travel to this place is a bit of a ‘re-trace’ of my steps from when I first went to Bottomless Lakes. My intention was to just follow a natural route to the next, more northern state park from Bottomless Lakes. But when I read about this place, I felt I ‘had’ to go see it. My plan was to leave tomorrow (Sunday); however, the wind is holding me hostage for at least one more day. I hope to travel on Monday toward Santa Rosa State Park.

In making these more frequent moves I am beginning to feel more comfortable with the hitching and unhitching process. Getting the trailer hitch over the ball of the truck, or getting the ball under the hitch without another’s eyes is becoming a little easier. I’ve done it twice now. And I’m learning patience!

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