New Mexico is not known for water. In fact, the lack of water down here explains how a part of the country has managed to remain one of the least populated states in the United States. On your drive to Roswell, in the southeast corner of New Mexico, signs for Bottomless Lake State Park may look like a hoax after driving through miles of parched, red and yellow desert. Bottomless Lake State Park isn't a hoax; make sure you stop and visit this oasis in the desert.
Bottomless Lake State Park is a series of nine sinkholes that were once underwater caverns. The caverns eventually caved in and filled with water. The lakes range a great deal in both depth and clarity. Some of the lakes are extremely shallow and salty, such as the aptly named Devil’s Inkwell, while others are deep, clear pools of water like Lea Lake which is fed by such a massive freshwater spring that visibility reaches nearly fifty feet into the water during the fall and winter months. 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.
The park is open year-round, and it gets several winter visitors that enjoy taking advantage of the relatively mild sunny weather with temperatures in the 40s-60s. The 3,000 ft elevation means that summers at this campground are less scorching than you might imagine. Although the park does hit 100+ temperatures occasionally in July and August afternoons, it typically cools down dramatically in the evening. Both Devil’s Inkwell and Lea Lake are stocked with Rainbow trout in the winter for ice fishing, and Lea Lake is regularly promoted as a scuba diving spot due to its warm temperatures and unique geology. During the summer months, the park also rents paddleboats and paddleboards by the hour.
Bottomless Lakes State Park is located in the southeast portion of New Mexico, approximately 20 minutes southeast of Roswell. The roads that lead to this 1,400-acre state park are paved, two-lane roads that are typically easy to navigate in any vehicle, including big-rigs and rigs that are towing trailers. They tend to be straight roads with only gradual changes in elevation, and there is plenty of visibility as you drive. There are 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 Lea Lake Campground, situated along the shores of Lea Lake, is composed of a total of 32 RV suitable back-in campsites. The sites accommodate RVs and trailers that range from 35 to 50 feet in length. Each site at this campground is equipped with a 30-amp electrical hookup, picnic table, and pedestal grill, and at least six of the sites also provide full sewer and water hookups. Several amenities are offered to campers at this campground, including plumbed bathhouses with flush toilets and outdoor showers, a group picnic area, free Wi-Fi, and a conveniently placed dump station. Pets are welcome at this campground as well, but they must remain leashed and under their human companions' control to protect them from desert dangers such as cactus thorns, scorpions, and venomous snakes.
The Lea Lake Campground also offers first-come, first-served camping. This popular campground accommodates RV between 35 to 50 feet in length, so if you have a larger RV, you might want to get to the park early to ensure there is a spot big enough for your rig. All of the sites at this campground provide 30-amp electrical hookups, picnic tables, pedestal grills, and some of the sites have full hookups. The park also provides several amenities for campers, including free Wi-Fi, flushable toilets, outdoor showers, and a dump station.
Cyclists who are visiting Bottomless Lake State Park will want to be sure and bring their mountain bike with them in their campervan. The volunteer group known as Friends of Bottomless Lake State Park designed Skidmarks Trail, a three-mile technical mountain bike loop in the park. This trail is suitable for novice to intermediate riders, although very inexperienced riders may find that there are a couple of areas where they have to walk their bikes. There are enough well-planned drops and turns to make this trail feel longer than it is, and the scenery is starkly beautiful. There are a couple of bridges, but everything is in good shape, and you won't have to stress about cactus dangers encroaching, because the area is frequently groomed.
The Roswell UFO Museum is a must-see attraction if you are driving your RV through the state of New Mexico. The alleged UFO crash speculated to have occurred near Roswell in 1947, and the mysterious government activities at the nearby Area 51 have created endless speculation around the world about the possibilities of visitors from other planets. The Roswell UFO Museum takes all of these speculations pretty seriously, and in addition to informative displays and video archives, they also provide a vast 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 drawn to the mild winters of New Mexico. Over 500 species of birds can be found in the area, many of which are migrating birds that stop at the nine pools of Bottomless Lakes State Park each year to rest. The miles of hiking and biking trails provide some of the best birdwatching in the state, and the several bird blinds that have been developed give you a great place to view the birds without disturbing them. Roadrunners, pelicans, cranes, ducks, teal, plover, and more will help you to break in your field guide properly.
Water is precious in New Mexico, and if you park your RV at the Lea Lake Campgrounds 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 state park even provides a full complement of lifeguards in the summer. Just a few feet away from the shore, the bottom truly disappears beneath you. The roped-off swim area is situated right next to bathrooms, showers, and a snack bar.
Boating at Bottomless Lakes State Park is an enjoyable and peaceful way to have fun on the water. You can bring your kayak or canoe. Motorized boats are prohibited on these lakes. The State Park also provides a mini-marina near the shores of Lea Lake that is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The marina rents water toys by the hour for people who crave some touristy fun. Rent a paddleboat or paddleboard to get into the center of this exceptionally clear lake and see if you can catch a glimpse of the bottom. As a bonus, you may get to watch scuba divers exploring the water beneath you as you float or paddle on the surface of the water.
Lea Lake is a fantastic place for recreational scuba diving with depths to 90 feet, and a large group of natural freshwater springs halfway down that pumps out over nine million gallons of freshwater each day. Divers have labeled the convergence of springs Mecca for its dome of perfect visibility created by the intruding fresh water. The clarity of the lake makes it possible to spot several varieties of fish in the lake, including threatened species such as the Pecos pupfish and the Mexican tetra. Labor Day weekend brings the annual Bubble Fest to Bottomless Lakes State Park, which includes games of dive poker, in which two decks of weighted cards are thrown into the lake and divers compete to claim the best poker hand. There's plenty of parking and a nice sandy beach to hang out on in between dives.