New Mexico is not known for water. In fact the lack of water down here explains how such a huge part of the country has managed to remain one of the least populated. So on your drive to Roswell, in the southeast corner of NM, signs for Bottomless Lake State Park look like a hoax after miles of parched, red and yellow desert.
Visitors to the State Park's Lea Lake Campground will be thrilled to discover that this 90 foot deep cenote is not only real - it happens to be the best swimming hole for over 200 miles around, and there is full hook-up camping within sight of the sandy beach.
Bottomless Lake State Park is a series of nine sinkholes which used to be underwater caverns, which eventually caved in and filled with water. They range in depth and clarity, with some being so brackish and shallow that you'll want to keep your distance, to Lea Lake which is fed by such a massive fresh water spring that visibility is nearly fifty feet down in the Fall and Winter.
Two of the lakes are stocked in the winter for fishing, and Lea Lake is regularly promoted as a scuba diving spot for it's warm temperatures and unique geology. The swim beach is patrolled with life guards in the summer and the park also rents peddle boats and paddle boards by the hour.
The park is open year round, and actually sees lots of visitors in the winter taking advantage of the relatively mild sunny weather and temps in the 40s-60s. The 3,000 ft elevation also means that summers are less scorching than you'd imagine. Even the couple of weeks above 100 degrees in July/August see cooling in the evenings.
RV Rentals in Bottomless Lakes State Park
Transportation in Bottomless Lakes State Park
If you don't manage to score a spot at the park, Roswell is a fun stop, and there are plenty of affordable RV parks and motels there. Long stretches of highway in between gas stations in this area. Keep the tank topped off and the cooler stocked with ice and water - always. The SP is easy navigating for large trailers, but the sites are all back-in. Be extra careful with pets due to cactus, thorns, and snakes.
Campgrounds and parking in Bottomless Lakes State Park
Campsites in Bottomless Lakes State Park
Lea Lake Campground
A nice small campground right by the sandy swimming beach at Lea Lake. 32 sites have power and water, and another 6 have sewer hook-ups as well. There are full restrooms, showers, a snack bar, and a dump station. There is fast free WiFi. There are several smaller campgrounds north of Lea Lake for tents, but Lea Lake is the only place where RVs are allowed. Only 13 of the sites are reservable online and the place is popular so show up early!
Lea Lake Campground
The Park service doesn't make all of its sites available for online reservation. Lea Lake campground has some sites that cannot be reserved in advance, and can only be claimed by showing up. While you can contact the park directly to inquire about the sites, it's not possible to reserve them without being there physically. So while it is recommended that you make a reservation if you're planning to visit the park, it doesn't necessarily mean that you won't get a space if you don't.
Seasonal activities in Bottomless Lakes State Park
Swim Lea Lake
Water is precious in New Mexico, and if you come to the Roswell area in the Summer you won't be able to dive in fast enough once you see the stunning blue water of the 90 foot deep Lea Lake. There is a large sandy beach to relax on, and the SP even provides life guards in the summer. Just a few feet away from the shore the bottom truly disappears beneath you. The swim area is roped off and right next to bathrooms, showers, and a snack bar.
Paddle Boat / Paddle Board Rentals
The State Park has a mini-marina that rents water toys by the hour for some touristy fun. Rent a peddle boat or paddle board to get into the center of the lake and see if you can glimpse the bottom. As a non-motorized lake this is a very pleasant way to have fun on the water. As an added bonus, you may get to watch scuba divers exploring the water beneath you.
Scuba Dive NM
Labor Day weekend brings the annual Bubble Fest to Bottomless Lakes State Park. Lea Lake is a fantastic place for recreational scuba diving with depths to 90 feet and a natural freshwater spring halfway down that pumps out nearly five million gallons of freshwater a day. Divers have labeled the spring Mecca for its dome of perfect visibility created by the intruding fresh water. There's plenty of parking and a nice sandy beach to hang out on in between dives.
Desert Mountain Biking
Friends of Bottomless Lake State Park designed Skidmarks Trail, a three mile technical mountain bike loop in the park. There are enough well planned drops and turns to make this trail feel longer than it is. There are a couple of bridges, but everything is in good shape. It works well going both ways around the trails and you won't have to stress about cactus dangers encroaching, because the area is frequently groomed.
UFO Capital of the World (Roswell)
The Roswell UFO Museum is a must see in New Mexico. The possible UFO crash near Roswell in 1947 and the mysterious government activities at the nearby Area 51 have created endless speculation about the possibilities of visitors from other planets. The UFO Museum take all of this pretty seriously, and in addition to informative displays and video archives, they also provide a huge library specifically collected to research the "Roswell Incident". There are alien themed shops all over town and even an annual festival. The truth is out there.
"Snowbirds" aren't the only ones being drawn to the mild winters of New Mexico. 500 species of birds can be found in the area, many are migrating birds that stop at the nine pools of Bottomless Lakes State Park each year, and the miles of hiking trails and several bird blinds provide access to some of the best watching in the state. Roadrunners, pelicans, cranes, ducks, teal, plover and more will break in your field guide properly.