If you only stopped in Roswell’s main town, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was all alien paraphernalia and 50s diners. And for dwelling on the confrontingly high level of morbid obesity in the area.
But if you drive 30 minutes past town out to Bottomless Lakes, you’ll find a place of unexpected beauty – wetlands, desert, and crystal clear salt-water lakes.
The state park gets its names from the lakes and sinkholes in the area.
The bottomless lakes are a chain of eight lakes that are really sinkholes that range in depth from 17 to 90 feet deep.
Our New Mexico State Parks flyer says that the lakes “were formed when circulating water dissolved salt and gypsum deposits to form subterranean caverns…the caverns collapsed from their own eight. Sinkholes resulted, soon filled with water and formed the existing lakes.”
Our three day stay at Lea Lake at Bottomless Lakes was perfect.
The sky was a constant clear blue. The temperature was perfect bikini weather: hot, with little humidity. The lake water, though cold, was a welcome sensation after sunbaking on the scorching orange sand.
And North Nomad was particularly pleased that not only was the wifi free, it was also (relatively) high speed! And all of the neighbouring campers were respectful of noise and space. What else could you want staying in a state park?
On our first night, I have my first encounter with a baby raccoon. I loved its little bandit mask markings around its eyes, and its tiny clawed hands. It hid under the picnic table next to the camp site as dusk hit and I tried not to freak it out too much with taking iPhone photos.
On our second day, I hit the beach. The sand is such a striking orange colour and so hot, that I can almost pretend it’s a real salt water beach on the ocean. The water is honestly, damn cold. Not as cold as Lake Ontario, but still cold. I go in for a quick few hundred metre swim.
As I’m paddling back, I hear the father of a family splashing about nearby telling the girls to get out of the water, because “the snakes come out at dusk”. I hurry out. Land snakes, whatever. Water snakes? Something panics me a little about water snakes.
Before we leave, North Nomad and I hit the walking trails that wind in and out of the wetlands system that was restored in 2010 as a joint initiative between New Mexico State Parks and the U.S. Army Corps Engineers. This restoration cleared open three ponds and a channel from Lea Lake, and helped encourage local plants and animals.
The word wetlands evokes a sense of murkiness and dankness, but the water here was so clear that we didn’t realise that it was running water in some sections.
After we’ve explored the wetlands, we do the Bluff Trail.
Over 250 million years ago, it was covered by a shallow inland sea. All that’s left of this is the red siltstone and white gypsum rock. The tourist signs tell us we’ll “probably” see roadrunners and hawks, and if we’re lucky we’ll see deer, coyote, bobcats, raccoons, badgers or skunks. I’m hugely disappointed that we don’t see any, and to compensate, I photograph a large cricket, who is rather unperturbed by me sticking my iPhone in its face.
I’m sad to leave Bottomless Lakes.
With weather like that, beautiful lakes, and a good, free wifi connection, I could have happily stayed for weeks.
This was my first visit to a saltwater lake.
Do you know any other good saltwater lakes?
Location: 545 Bottomless lakes Rd, Roswell, New Mexico 88201, United States
Getting there: 12 MILES EAST OF ROSWELL, NM ON US HWY 380, THEN SOUTH ON NM 409 FOR 7 MILES.
Cost: $14 per night.
You can connect with South Nomad, Jessica over at Google.