RV Trip 10.17 – New Mexico – Brantley Lake SP, Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Bottomless Lake SP – Mar 25–30, 2023

Leaving Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, we went to Alamogordo to do some shopping and get internet access to post a blog. Then we headed up the mountain, making a stop at the tunnel overlook before going up and over the mountains, passing through the ski area called Cloudcroft.  A beautiful drive and at the peak (8676′ elevation) there was still a little bit of snow on the ski hills. We went down the other side and the terrain was totally different with a very flat barren plateau area.

Water was a sustaining resource in the American West. In 1867 there was a settlement called Seven Rivers due to the confluence of rivers joining the Pecos River. The settlement peaked with a population of 300 in 1880 and was a colourful wild west town as the nearest sheriff was 125 miles away. The Brantley Lake Dam on the Pecos River started construction in 1984 and was completed in 1988 thereby flooding the then defunct Seven Rivers settlement. The primary purpose for this dam was to create a reservoir for irrigation purposes, however it also now offers recreational facilities with the State Park for camping and the lake for boating and fishing. The concrete section of the dam is 730’ long and the embankment is 3.9 miles long. The ranger told us the lake level can fluctuate by 30’ depending on the season and irrigation needed. We arrived later in the day so the next day we did the hike from the campground to the visitor center and then a trail to the lake, about 8 km. The trails were colourful with the spring wildflowers blooming.

The Park Ranger at Brantley Lake told us about Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge and the Lesser Sandhill Crane migration. Even though we knew the cranes had probably already headed north, we thought we’d check it out anyway. We were told that a week ago 30 cranes were still there, but now, none, at the peak they had 34,000 cranes migrating within the Central Flyway of North America to this park.  They had some very interesting displays in the visitor center including lots of information on dragonflies. Did you know dragonflies live from 2 to 6 years underwater before emerging as a dragonfly that we see?  There are damselflies and dragonflies, the difference, a damselfly wings fold along their back whereas a dragonfly keeps its wings open at rest. This park has over 60 species of dragonflies and over 40 species of damselflies. Even though there weren’t many birds we decided to drive the 6 km loop road around the area and stop at the bird blinds and trails.  We saw a few Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snow Geese, Black Necked Stilts, Scaled Quails, and various ducks. At the end of the driving loop, we went to the headquarters building so we could see the mosaic wall art piece that represented many of the common things you could see in the park. This park would be phenomenal to see in November/December when the majority of the Sandhill Cranes would be there!

Bottomless Lakes SP was one of the first state parks established in New Mexico in 1933. On our first full day we hiked past the CCC built Lea Lake Pavilion and water tower before we began to explore the various sinkholes in the area along the nature trail (9 kms).  The 8 lakes are a chain of sinkholes that range in depth from 17’ to 90’. They were formed when moving water dissolved salt and gypsum deposits to form caverns. Over time the roof of the caverns collapsed creating the sinkholes, and then they filled with water. They were each unique in some way and we really liked the contrast of the red cliff walls versus the dark colouration of the deep sinkholes. After seeing the 8 lakes we went through the displays in the visitor centre.

The next day we headed out on our bikes, riding the upper road to the Skidmarks Desert Bike Trail.  It was an intermediate single track with some rocky sections, hills and drop offs.  I had a blast doing this trail, Sharon was happy to arrive back without a flat tire!  We continued on to the lower road stopping at the Lazy Lagoon for lunch.  A great day of riding and exploring, we did almost 19 km riding.

The following morning the winds were going to significantly increase so we headed out early on our long drive to Monahan’s SP in Texas. We took back roads and passed a small wind turbine area, lots of oil pump jacks, and a very large cowboy sculpture near Jal New Mexico. We will end this blog here as that finishes this trip’s New Mexico adventures.


  • Okay, so you must know that “Alamogordo” means “fat cottonwood” so I’m wondering if you saw some fat cottonwood trees??”

    I really enjoyed reading about dragonflies and how they start the first years of their life underwater!! Scuba diving insects! And I like the look of your gypgrass hat Joel. You could start a whole new style with that!

    Great photos again, especially the sinkholes. And I laughed out loud about Sharon being glad to bike the trails without getting a flat! I can only imagine the anxiety as she bumped along those rocky trails!! Good thing you have wine on the RV.

    Hope you have a great visit with Mike M – say hi!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes lots of fat cottonwoods in the spring areas. We need you along to translate 👍 In the next blog we’ll talk about Sharon’s 3rd flat fat tire 🙃 Will do on saying Hi to Mike and Nat👍


  • So top of Sunshine Village resort in Banff is also about 8500 feet elevation. Sunshine is still fully open. I guess the probably 3000km change in latitude makes the difference. All the terrain there seems dry and brown. I know flowers may bloom to give lots of colour, but I wonder if they ever have basic greenery.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A lot of the areas we’ve been in have had drought conditions lately. Now we’re in Plano and everything is amazingly green.


  • Sharon’s fat tire is twice as wide as Joel’s bike tire, so it is reasonable that she gets more flat tire than Joel. Oh yeah, you were by White Sands National Park. I saw on PBS program they discovered human tracks in mud from 25,000 years ago at White Sands. That overturned the previous belief that humans only came to Americas 12-15,000 years ago. Cool stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes you’re right on the tire size Danny, we even talked about getting her a regular MTB to reduce the exposure, however she still likes the big tires for beach riding.


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