New Mexico State Park: Bottomless Lakes State Park
Over the years I have been to Roswell and the Bottomless Lakes quite a few times. I remember going with my parents when I was younger, but I don’t remember much except for being in the old yellow van and running out of gas on the long, boring road to the lakes. That memory made a lasting impression.
Bottomless Lakes State Park is about 3 hours from Albuquerque, according to Google Maps. According to Evanskin time it’s about 6 hours. We stopped for a night at the beautiful Sumner Lake State Park so we didn’t have to drive so far in one day. We were also able to stop and explore the Roswell Alien Museum and Main Street, abd get to our campsite before 4:00PM.
In July of 1936 the 8 small, naturally fed lakes in SE New Mexico and the surrounding wetlands, became the first New Mexico State Park. The lakes are surrounded by wetlands (when there isn’t a drought), bird and wild life viewing areas, a boardwalk, scenic hikes and vistas galore.
We “glamped” at Lea Lake campground. It had clean bathrooms with flush toilets and showers that have warm water. The teen was annoyed with the push-button shower that had to get pushed every 30 seconds. I have never tent camped at Bottomless Lakes because it is very hot. It’s not in the mountains or forest, so there is no shade. However, each campsite had a tent pad, a shade structure and a picnic table, and it cooled off nicely at night. My extended family joined us, and slept in tents. They needed sleeping bags at night!
Lea Lake has a developed swim beach. The kiddos loved playing in the lake beach. There were shade structures with picnic tables, bathrooms, tower showers (to rinse off before heading home), and the beach had no moss or sticks or “scary” things for the kids. We spent all Saturday morning there and it was very lovely.
On summer weekends they rent paddle boards ($5/hour) and pedal boats ($10/hour for four people). The pedal boat was great fun! Later in the evening after I scrounged up $5.00 of coins from my vehicle (the rental stand is cash only), I rented a paddle board and did some paddling and relaxing in the cool lake.
For one afternoon we hung out in the lake by our campsite. This part of the lake is off limits to day-use folk. The kids didn’t enjoy the moss forests and rocks but we all agreed that not having so many people around was a plus. Another benefit was that it was right next to our campground. While they were playing at the lake, grownups took turns between watching/playing with them and cooking dinner. We grilled hotdogs and sausages and made Dutch Oven Chocolate Cherry Cake (see recipe below!) One of the benefits of having extra people around is that R, the teen, and I can never even make a dent in dutch oven cake by ourselves.
While playing at the natural beach we saw water turtles, a couple snakes, frogs and a ton of minnows. The teen stood very still in the water and the minnows nibbled their feet. There were also raptors soaring above, a ton of other birds for the watchers, and different kinds of lizards running about.
Bottomless Lakes has two other primitive campgrounds (vault toilets & no hookups), Devil’s Inkwell and Pasture Lake. They were beautiful, peaceful and quiet. I explored those campgrounds, the other lakes, the boardwalk and the wetland reclamation area all while I was out Geocaching! I walked the Bluff Trail from Mirror Lake to Lea Campground and back again. (I remembered my hiking backpack and told R where I was going THIS TIME, but nothing exciting happened.) Iit was a short and beautiful hike.
Lea Lake campground is at the end of a road, so there was no car traffic to be heard. Most of the nights it stormed. The one clear night was perfect for star-gazing. You might even spot a UFO or two, being in Roswell & all.
We love it here and highly recommend it. If you don’t like to camp, you can stay at an inexpensive Roswell hotel, and make an enjoyable day-trip to the Bottomless Lakes. Another bonus, Roswell and the Bottomless Lakes are very near the glorious Carlsbad Caverns.
Here is why we LOVE Bottomless Lakes State Park, Lea Lake Campground:
- Every site is within walking distance to the lake
- Sites are flat, even and spacious
- Hookups are easy to reach
- This is a state park – very affordable
- Nice, clean restrooms with flush toilets & hot water for showering
- Showers are individual stalls with hot water
- Beautiful scenic views & wildlife viewing
- Playing in the lake is fabulous
Dutch Oven Cherry Chocolate Cake
… that are super easy to use in the RV
One box chocolate cake mix
2 cans cherry pie filling
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1. Light the charcoal briquettes
2. While they are heating prepare the Dutch oven. Make sure it is well seasoned (double check before you head out on your camping adventure).
3. Line the oven with either the dutch oven liners or foil (sugary items bake onto even well-seasoned cast iron making it very difficult to clean).
4. Evenly spread two cans of cherry pie filling in the bottom of the oven
5. Sprinkle the cake mix on evenly on top.
6. Cut the stick of butter into thin slices and spread them evenly around the top of the cake mix
7. Cover with the lid.
8. After the charcoal bricks are hot and gray use tongs to make a ring of bricks the size of the Dutch oven on the ground. Then put some bricks evenly throughout the middle of the ring. Use 15-18 bricks for this part.
9. Place the Dutch oven over the bricks.
10. Use tongs to evenly place 12-15 bricks on the lid.
11. Let the cake bake for approximately 45 minutes to an hour. Carefully use the lid lifter to remove the lid and place the lid with hot coals somewhere safe.
12. Enjoy delicious cake!
Camping at NM state parks costs $10/night, $14/night with electricity. But with the annual camping pass, you camp for free or for $4 with electricity hookup. R’s family got us one for her birthday this year and we are using it to death!
Proper cooking utensils are important… for good food and safety.
Keep a small tub with outdoor cooking utensils such as Dutch oven lid lifter and stand, tongs, grill cleaner, long spatulas, long fork, etc, marshmallow roasters, oven mitts, with your charcoal, lighter fluid and grill. This way you’ll remember everything and not have to make a million trips back and forth to the RV.