With 35 state parks, 70 percent of the population of New Mexico lives within only 40 miles of a great getaway. There are mountains, forests, canyons, lakes, historical areas, deserts, and dinosaur tracks. The state parks in New Mexico are family friendly - many parks have playgrounds and picnic areas, as well as developed and electric campsites. Use this guide to plan your next adventure in your own backyard!
The New Mexico Parks app includes these awesome state parks:
Bluewater LakeBluewater Lake State Park is a New Mexico State Park located 40 miles west of Grants, New Mexico in the Zuni Mountains. The park itself encompasses approximately 3,000 acres, and the lake has a surface area of approximately 1,200 acres.
The park is popular for fishing and bird watching, with 68 different species of birds either calling the park home, or passing through the park on their annual migrations. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, and catfish. Its high altitude (7,400 feet) and location in northern New Mexico cause the lake to freeze over in the winter, allowing ice fishing to take place.
Bottomless LakesBottomless Lakes State Park, established in 1933, was the first state park in the U.S. state of New Mexico. It is located along the Pecos River, about 15 miles (24 km) southeast of Roswell, New Mexico. It takes its name from nine small, deep lakes located along the eastern escarpment of the Pecos River valley. The escarpment is an ancient limestone reef, similar to the limestone mountains around Carlsbad Caverns, 80 miles (130 km) to the south. Caves formed within the limestone, and as the Pecos River eroded the escarpment, the caves eventually collapsed, leaving behind several deep, almost circular lakes known as cenotes.
Most of the nine lakes are almost completely surrounded by cliffs, with the notable exceptions being Lea Lake and Lazy Lagoon. Lea Lake has a large, sandy shoreline on the western side and tall cliffs on the eastern side. The cliffs around Lazy Lagoon have been completely eroded away by the Pecos River, and the lake sits in a former channel of the river.
Lazy Lagoon is the largest of the lakes, with a surface area of approximately 26 acres (110,000 m2). Although it is a single lake, it is actually made up of three separate sink holes. The surface of the Lazy Lagoon is nearly level with the surrounding salt flats, which makes it look very shallow. In actuality, the deepest of its three sink holes is 90 feet (27 m) deep.
Lea Lake is the only lake in which swimming is allowed, and it has a beach and concession area which is popular in the summer.
Devil's Inkwell is the smallest of the lakes, with a surface area of only 0.36 acres (1,500 m2). It gets its name from the dark color of the water which is caused by the steep sides of the cenote and algae growth within the lake.
Figure Eight Lake is actually two lakes separated by the thin strip of land. When the water is very high the strip of land is covered, and the two nearly circular lakes join and take the shape of a figure eight. Irrigation in the Pecos Valley has lowered the water table, so the two lakes of Figure Eight lake rarely join to form a single lake anymore.
Pasture Lake is the shallowest of the lakes, at only 18 feet (5.5 m) deep with a surface area of 0.76 acres (3,100 m2).
The lakes are not fed by streams, and the evaporation rate of the lakes in the hot desert climate exceeds the rate at which rainwater refills them. The lakes are fed by underground water percolating through the rocks and into the lakes. The high evaporation rate makes the water in the lakes brackish. Seven of the lakes are protected, although in recent years the lakes have been contaminated by trash that has been thrown into the lakes by careless visitors. The ninth and southernmost lake, Dimmitt Lake, is not a part of the state park and is owned by the Fin and Feather Club, a local hunting and fishing club.
Four endangered species can be found in the park. The Pecos pupfish and the Rainwater Killifish are both endangered species of fish, and the Cricket Frog and the Eastern Barking Frog also live in the park.
In the winter, Devil's Inkwell and Cottonwood Lake are both stocked with Rainbow Trout.
Brantley LakeBrantley Lake State Park is a New Mexico State Park located approximately 12 miles (19 km) north of Carlsbad, New Mexico. The park takes its name from Brantley Lake, a man-made reservoir created when Brantley Dam was built across the Pecos River in the 1980s. The lake is the southernmost lake in New Mexico, and it is popular for boating and fishing. It has a surface area of approximately 4,000 acres (16 km2), but that varies due to the inconsistent flow of the Pecos River and the arid climate in which the lake is located.
The lake is stocked with bass, walleye, catfish, bluegill, and crappie, however officials have recently detected high levels of DDT in the fish and the State Parks Department is recommending that the fish not be eaten.
The park has 51 developed campsites with electricity, shower facilities, a playground, a visitor center, and other amenities.
Caballo LakeCaballo Lake State Park is a New Mexico State Park located 16 miles (26 km) south of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico on the Rio Grande River. The lake was created in the 1930s when an earthen dam was built across the Rio Grande. The dam is 96 feet (29 m) tall and 4,558 feet (1,389 m) across. The size of the lake varies by season, but when the lake is full, it is over 11,500 acres (47 km2) in area, and 18 miles (29 km) long, making it New Mexico's third largest lake.
The primary attraction of the lake is fishing, with bass and walleye fishing most popular.
Cerrillos HillsCerrillos Hills State Park is New Mexico's newest state park. It is located sixteen miles south of Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was formerly known as Cerrillos Hills Historic Park and administered by the county of Santa Fe. The hills in the park range in elevation from 6,000 feet (1,800 m) to 6,900 feet (2,100 m) above sea level. At the current time, there is no visitor center or other facilities, however plans are underway for the construction of one. The park does have numerous hiking trails.
Cimarron CanyonCimarron Canyon State Park is a New Mexico State Park located three miles east of Eagle Nest, New Mexico in the Colin Neblett Wildlife Area. The park is popular for trout fishing in the Cimarron River and its tributaries, Clear Creek and Tolby Creek. The park also has numerous trails, which are used for hiking in the summer and cross country skiing in the winter.
The park extends for eight miles along the Cimarron Canyon between Tolby Creek and Ute Park. The Palisades Sill forms spectacular cliffs above the Cimarron River here.
City of RocksThe City of Rocks State Park is located in Grant County, in southwestern New Mexico in the southwestern United States. The City of Rocks is a geologic monument consisting of large sculptured rock formations in the shape of pinnacles or boulders rising as high as 40 feet (12 m) and separated by paths. It provides opportunities for camping, picnicking, wildlife viewing, and dark night-sky viewing (including a 14-inch (36 cm) telescope). The park is open all year. At least 50,000 people visit the park annually. Nearby are the communities of Silver City and Deming.
Other features of the park include hiking trails, picnic areas and a desert botanical garden.
Chapter 110 of the 1953 Laws of New Mexico, created City of Rocks State Park on March 20, 1953. This legislation provided for the lease of 640 acres (2.6 km2) of land from the Commissioner of Public Lands, New Mexico State Land Office for the purpose of a State Park and recreation area.
The Mimbreno Indians settled in the area about 750 - 1250 AD. Pottery, arrowheads, and other artifacts show evidence of prehistoric Indians in the area. Indian wells, or conical holes, are found in the rocks where water would be allowed to collect.
The City of Rocks was created 34.9 million years ago by a volcanic eruption. Then over millions of years, erosion sculpted the rock formations seen today. The eruption was from the Emory caldera, centered near Hillsboro Peak at the southern end of the Black Range. The eruption was estimated to be a VEI 8.5 eruption. Also related to the eruption was the 314 mi2 Kneeling Nun Tuff.
Facilities include electrical and water hookups for camping. The visitor center includes a large display area with restrooms and hot showers.
Clayton LakeClayton Lake State Park is located 15 miles (24 km) north of Clayton, close to New Mexico's border with Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas. The landscape is characterized by rolling grasslands, volcanic rocks, and sandstone bluffs, set on the western edge of the Great Plains. The park area was a stopover point for travelers along the Cimarron Cutoff of the Santa Fe Trail.
Visitors today can enjoy picnicking, camping, and superb fishing at the 170-acre (0.69 km2) lake, as well as view one of the most extensive dinosaur track ways in North America. Clayton Lake was created by the New Mexico Game and Fish Department in 1955 as a fishing lake and winter waterfowl resting area.
A dam was constructed across Seneca Creek, which is actually a series of seeps except after heavy rains. During the fishing season, which usually runs from March to October each year, the lake is a popular spot for anglers hoping to catch trout, catfish, bass, and walleye. Boats are allowed on the lake, but are restricted to trolling speeds. The lake is closed to fishing during the winter, when it serves as a stopover for water fowl.
The park offers a group shelter and a modern comfort station. The dinosaur tracks are embedded in rock near the lake. They can be observed on the dam spillway at the end of a gentle one-fourth mile trail. The best times to view the tracks are in the morning and the late afternoon. A sheltered gazebo and a boardwalk trail provide extensive information regarding the dinosaurs.
Conchas LakeConchas Lake is a 25-mile (40 km) long reservoir in northeastern New Mexico, behind Conchas Dam on the Canadian River.
Adjacent to the lake is Conchas Lake State Park, which is divided into two separate areas, north and south. The state park has nine public boat ramps: five in the north area and four in the south area. The lake contains walleye, largemouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill, and crappie. The south area is located between the town of Conchas and Hooverville. Visitors can access the lake via NM 104, at mile marker 75, 29 miles (47 km) northwest of Tucumcari and 75 miles (121 km) southeast of Las Vegas.
Conchas Lake Airport is located on NM 104 east of the lake, and Conchas Lake Seaplane Base is located 2 nautical miles (3.7 km) north of Conchas Dam.
Coyote CreekCoyote Creek State Park is a New Mexico State Park located 17 miles north of Mora, New Mexico in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The park is popular for hiking, trout fishing, and camping.
Eagle Nest LakeEagle Nest Lake State Park is New Mexico's newest State Park, established on July 3, 2004. Located at Eagle Nest, NM, approximately 30 miles (48 km) east of Taos, New Mexico. Its main attraction is a 2,400-acre (9.7 km2) lake which is popular for fishing and boating in the summer, and ice fishing and snowmobiling in the winter. The lake itself is a man-made reservoir created when the Cimarron River was impounded by the Eagle Nest Dam in 1920. The lake is stocked with kokanee salmon and rainbow trout.
The lake is at an elevation of 8,300 feet (2,500 m), making it an alpine lake, and it is situated in a glacial valley on the slopes of Wheeler Peak, New Mexico's highest mountain. The surrounding mountains are rich in wildlife such as elk, deer, turkeys and bears.
El Vado LakeEl Vado Lake is a reservoir located in Rio Arriba County, in northern New Mexico in the southwestern United States. Water is impounded by the earth-filled El Vado Dam, 642 feet (196 m) long and 175 feet (53 m) high, completed in 1935. The 3,200 acre (13 km²) lake is 5 miles (8 km) long and over 1 mile (2 km) wide, and lies at an elevation of 6,900 feet (2,100 m).
The eastern shore of the lake is the El Vado Lake State Park, featuring over 100 camping and picnic sites, and two improved boat ramps. The lake is an excellent destination for salmon and trout fishing, as well as for boating. Unlike nearby Heron Lake, boat speeds are not restricted. A 5.5 mile (9 km) hiking trail runs to the north, crosses the Rio Chama Gorge via a pedestrian suspension bridge, and then connects to the Heron Lake State Park.
Elephant Butte LakeElephant Butte Lake State Park is a New Mexico state park located 125 miles (201 km) north of El Paso, Texas along the shore of Elephant Butte Lake. Elephant Butte Reservoir is the largest reservoir and the largest state park in New Mexico. The 36,000-acre (150 km2) reservoir created in 1916 across the Rio Grande, is 40 miles (64 km) long with more than 200 miles (320 km) of shoreline.
Recreation at Elephant Butte Reservoir is managed by the New Mexico State Parks under agreement with the United States Bureau of Reclamation. Elephant Butte Dam, constructed between 1911 and 1916, was a major engineering feat in its day. The enormous concrete dam is the major feature of the Elephant Butte National Register Historic District. New Mexico State Parks operates a visitor center that contains information on the construction of the dam. Nearest full-service community is Truth or Consequences, 7 miles (11 km) south. The smaller town of Elephant Butte is located adjacent to the State Park. There are 3 developed camps on the lake, with over 200 camping and picnicking sites, concession-operated marinas, and stores.
Fenton LakeFenton Lake State Park is a New Mexico State Park located 33-mile (53 km) north of San Ysidro, New Mexico. The 37-acre (150,000 m2) lake is a popular fishing destination.
Heron LakeHeron Lake is a reservoir in Rio Arriba County, in northern New Mexico in the southwestern United States. The lake is part of the San Juan-Chama Diversion Project, which transfers water from the upper reaches of the San Juan River through the 12.8-mile (20.6 km) Azotea Tunnel (and under the Continental Divide), into Willow Creek and the Rio Chama (and ultimately into the Rio Grande). Water is impounded in Heron Lake by the 1,250-foot (381 m) long, 263-foot (80 m) high Heron Dam, which was completed in 1971. The 5,900-acre (24 km2) lake is approximately 4 miles (6 km) long and 3 miles (5 km) wide (7 x 5 km), and lies at an elevation of up to 7,186 feet (2,190 m).
The southern shore is the location of Heron Lake State Park, featuring over 200 camping and picnic sites, and two improved boat ramps. The lake is an excellent destination for salmon and trout fishing, as well as for small boat sailing. Boat speeds are restricted by a 'no-wake' policy. A 5.5 mile (9 km) hiking trail crosses the Rio Chama Gorge via a pedestrian suspension bridge, and then runs southwest through wooded terrain to the grounds of El Vado Lake State Park.
The lake, dam, and state park are named after Kenneth A. Heron, an engineer in the early 1900s who realized that water could be diverted from wetter areas to the north, to the benefit of more arid regions to the south.
Hyde MemorialHyde Memorial State Park is a New Mexico State Park located eight mile northeast of Santa Fe, New Mexico in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Summertime activities include hiking and camping, and in the winter the park is popular for tubing on the snow covered hillsides.
Leasburg DamLeasburg Dam State Park is located on the Rio Grande in Doña Ana County, in southern New Mexico in the southwestern United States. It provides opportunities for camping, hiking, picnicking, swimming, and wildlife viewing. Nearby is the historic Fort Seldon State Monument, and 15 miles to the south is the city of Las Cruces.
The dam at Leasburg was completed in 1908. Its purpose is not to hold back the flow of the river, but instead to divert it into a system of canals for use by nearby farms.
Known for its rich history, early settlers used the area as a passage to Jornada del Muerto, the nearby site of a 19th century army outpost is a reminder of a time not too long ago. Leasburg Dam State Park offers year-round camping, picnicking and is said to be a great place to partake in bird watching. From about mid-March to mid-October the park is also a great place to go fishing, canoeing and kayaking in the Rio Grande. Proving to be a great resource for the local farming community, the dam channels water from the Rio Grande for irrigation in the Mesilla Valley. Nearby a museum and a number of trails are located near Fort Seldon State Monument.
Living Desert Zoo and GardensThe Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park (1,100 acres) , formerly the Living Desert Zoological and Botanical State Park, is a zoo and botanical garden displaying plants and animals of the Chihuahuan Desert in their native habitats. It is located off U.S. Route 285 at the north edge of Carlsbad, New Mexico, at an elevation of 3,200 feet (980 m) atop the Ocotillo Hills overlooking the city and the Pecos River. It is open every day except Christmas; an admission fee is charged.
The zoo features more than forty native animal species, including pronghorn, badger, bison, bobcats, mule deer, elk, kit fox, gila monster, mountain lion, prairie dogs, reptiles, fourteen species of snakes, and Mexican gray wolves. An aviary contains golden eagles, hawks, owls, a roadrunner, songbirds, and turkeys. The gardens feature a greenhouse and hundreds of cacti and succulents from around the world, including acacia, agave, small barrel cactus, cholla, ocotillo, prickly pear, saguaro, sotol (Dasylirion wheeleri), and yucca.
Self-guided trails (1.3 miles) lead through sand dunes, arroyos, and pinyon pine/juniper forest.
Manzano MountainsManzano Mountains state park is a New Mexico State Park located 16 miles north of Mountainair, New Mexico on the eastern slope of the Manzano Mountains. The park is popular for fishing, bird-watching, hiking, and cross-country skiing.
The Manzano mountains are a part of the same geological feature that formed the Sandia Mountains to the north, but the Manzano mountains are more remote and less developed.
Mesilla Valley BosqueMesilla Valley Bosque State Park is a New Mexico State Park located near Las Cruces, New Mexico and just west of Mesilla, New Mexico along the Rio Grande River. The park itself encompasses approximately 305 acres, at an elevation of 3,900 feet.
The park consists of river woodlands and restored wetlands (a bosque) along the banks of the Rio Grande River. It is used by migratory birds, and is popular for bird watching, walking, and bicycling. It is a day-use only park, and camping is not allowed.
Morphy LakeMorphy Lake State Park is a New Mexico State Park located 7 miles southwest of Mora, New Mexico in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The park is one of New Mexico's smaller state parks, at only 30 acres, and the lake has a surface area of approximately 15 acres.
The park is popular for fishing, camping, and picnicking, However there is no running water, so visitors must pack their own. The lake is stocked with trout, and kokanee salmon. Boats are allowed on the lake, but no gas powered motors are allowed. Its high altitude (8,000 feet) and location in northern New Mexico cause the lake to freeze over in the winter, allowing ice fishing to take place.
Navajo LakeNavajo Lake is a reservoir located in San Juan County and Rio Arriba County in northwestern New Mexico, in the southwestern United States. Portions of the reservoir extend into Archuleta County in southern Colorado. The lake is part of the Colorado River Storage Project, which here manages the upper reaches of the San Juan River, storing and releasing water that is used locally for irrigation, or ultimately reaching the Colorado River in Utah. Water is impounded in Navajo Lake by the earth- and rock-filled Navajo Dam, 3,800 feet (1,160 m) long and 400 feet (120 m) high, completed in 1962. The 15,600-acre (63 km2) lake is over 25 miles (40 km) long, and lies at an elevation of up to 6,085 feet (1,855 m).
Two shoreline areas near the dam in New Mexico are part of the Navajo Lake State Park, featuring over 200 camping and picnic sites, and two improved boat ramps and a marina. The river shorelines below the dam are also part of the state park, as well as a BLM Recreation Area. An area in Colorado near the head of the lake is the Navajo State Recreation Area. The lake is an excellent destination for camping and general boating, as well as for salmon and trout fishing.
OasisOasis State Park is a New Mexico State Park located north of Portales, New Mexico in Roosevelt County. It is a popular destination with nearby residents and features a small fishing lake and several sand dunes.
Although the water quality in the centralized body of water in which the park surrounds is poor, the park itself boast spectacular sand dunes and interesting scenery.
Oliver Lee MemorialOliver Lee Memorial State Park is a New Mexico state park in Otero County, New Mexico in the United States. The park is 40 acres (16 ha) and sits at an elevation of 4,554 feet (1,388 m). It is situated at the base of Dog Canyon in the Sacramento Mountains, and provides opportunities for camping, hiking, picnicking, wildlife viewing, a nature trail, and a guided tour of Oliver Lee's historic 19th-century ranch house. The Dog Canyon National Recreational Trail climbs to provide views of the Tularosa Basin and the Organ Mountains. Nearby are the community of Alamogordo and the White Sands National Monument. Oliver Lee Memorial State Park was established in 1980.
Oliver Lee Memorial State Park consists of two separate parcels of land. Both parcels are historically significant. The Dog Canyon tract was used by Apache warriors as a defensive position and a base of operations during their numerous battles and wars with Euro-American explorers and settlers. Oliver Lee's homestead near the mouth of Dog Canyon was built in 1893. Lee was an influential citizen of New Mexico's settlement. The ranch is now a historic site and demonstrates how the ranch home looked while Lee was living there. As a well known rancher Lee was able to use his political influence to bring the railroad to nearby Alamogordo in 1898 and establish financial connections with influential citizens in El Paso, Texas. The northern parcel of land has been studied extensively by archaeologists to determine the cultural history of the area.
Oliver Lee Memorial State Park is situated in the Chihuahuan Desert. The Otero County area of New Mexico receives very little rain with an average yearly rainfall of just 11.6 inches (290 mm). The fact that a perennially flowing stream of water passes through Dog Canyon made it an important location for settlement by Native Americans what lived in and traveled through the Tularosa Basin.
The earliest known people to live in the are of the park were Paleoindians. They lived in the area from 9500 BC to about 5500 BC. They hunted a variety of now extinct animals like the Mammoth and large Bison. Evidence of their existence at the park include fluted projectile points and evidence of time-period campsites.
The Paleoindians were followed by peoples of the Archaic period from 5500 BC to 200 AD. These people were more sedentary than their the Paleoindians as evidenced by remnants of plant processing. The Archaics hunted animals and gathered plants for food. They were followed during the Formative period 200 - 1400 by the Jornada Mogollon peoples. The Jornada Mogollons were farmers that lived in villages and practiced a combination of dry-land and flood-land agriculture. Archaeologists have found ground stone, ceramics, projectile points, rock pueblo ruins, pithouses and rock art that are consistent with the cultural practices of the Jornada Mogollans. The Mescalero Apache established their dominance in the Tularosa Basin area by 1400. They were a mobile tribe that lived in tipis and subsisted on foods they both hunted and gathered. They also left behind projectile points. Other evidence of their time in the area includes drills, spears and stone axes. These Apache were the Indians that were encountered by Spanish explorers and later Anglo-American settlers. The Apache were highly territorial and defended their lands from incursion by settlers from Mexico and the southwestern territories of the United States.
The Apache were eventually forced from their lands by the forces of the United States. The Oliver Lee Memorial State Park area saw numerous conflicts between the Apache and Anglo-Americans from 1848 until 1912. The U.S. military and the Mescaleros had many confrontations within Dog Canyon itself over this time period during the Apache Wars.
The first homestead in the area was established by Francois Jean Rochas in 1885. He built his home at the mouth of Dog Canyon. He lived in a two room rock and adobe home. Rochas planted an orchard and built retaining walls on the ridges that flank the canyon. His home is marked by a partly reconstructed cabin on the interpretive trail that is west of the park's visitor center.
The park's namesake, Oliver Milton Lee, arrived in the area from Buffalo Gap, Texas in 1893. He established a 320-acre (130 ha) ranch on land just south of Dog Canyon. Lee built a ranch house, barns, corrals, reservoir and slaughterhouse on his land. He also developed an irrigation system that provided water for his ranch from the stream in the canyon. Remants of the water system can be see at the park. Oliver Lee later held office in the New Mexico Senate and continued operating his ranches until his own death in 1941. He has able to use his political influence to improve the area by bringing the railroad to Alamogordo in 1898.
Lee sold his ranch in 1907. After a series of several owners the ranch lands were made a part of the White Sands National Monument in 1939. Management of the 440 acres (180 ha) Dog Canyon tract was transferred to the State Parks Division in 1983 three year after the establishment of the park to the north of the canyon. Ownership of the southern part of the park was transferred to the state of New Mexico in 1998.
Oliver Lee Memorial State Park is at the base of the western escarpment of the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico. It contains Dog Canyon and land to the north of the canyon. The canyon is bisected by a perennial stream, a rarity in the Chihuahuan Desert.
The Sacramento Mountains are a mountain range lying just east of Alamogordo in Otero County (small portions of the range are in Lincoln County and Chaves County). From north to south, the Sacramento Mountains extend for 85 miles (137 km), and from east to west they encompass 42 miles (68 km). Dog Canyon is one of several canyons found on the west side of the mountains. The canyon and cliff faces show the geologic history of the park stretching from the Ordovician times (570 million years ago) to the Permian times (300 million years ago). Evidence of marine life in the area points to a time period when the land was covered by a shallow sea. The rocks contain fossils of nautiloid cephalopods. Native Americans used chert that was left behind as the seas receded to make stone tools. Rocks from the Mississippian age show continental shelf deposits and reef-like remains of fossilized crinoids, bryozoans and dense limestone. The Sacramentos underwent a volcanic time during the Tertiary Period (30 million years ago). The volcanic forces created igneous sills into the rocks from the Devonian Period.
Oliver Lee Memorial State Park is on the edge of the Tularosa Basin. Hydrologically, the Tularosa Basin is a closed basin; no streams flow out. Surface water that doesn’t evaporate or soak into the ground eventually accumulates at intermittent lakes. The basin covers about 6,500 square miles (16,800 km2). It was formed 25 million years ago by faults that caused the surrounding mountains to fall and the basin to sink.
Dog Canyon was carved into the basin fill materials of sand, silt and clay by heavy runoffs of earth and water from the surrounding mountains. The heavy rocks and fast moving waters carved the canyon out over millions of years. Lake Otero was formed by heavy snowmelt and rains during the late Pleistocene. About 20,00 years ago the climate changed. As the temperatures rose Lake Otero began to evaporate. Parts of the ancient lake can be found in Lake Lucero, Alkali Flat playa and the gypsum dunes of White Sands National Monument.
Water is a vital resource in the Chihuahuan Desert. The stream found in Dog Canyon has created a riparian environment in Oliver Lee Memorial State Park that is unique for the area. The stream is kept flowing by rain and snow-melt. The water seeps up from the ground in springs that naturally occur in the limestone formations of the park. The stream dries out just to the just of the park and the remaining water flows underground. It supports a small variety of insects and amphibians, but no fish.
Trees found along the stream include Rio Grande Cottonwood (Populus deltoides wislizeni), New Mexico Locust (Robinia neomexicana), and Velvet Ash (Fraxinus velutina). In the areas away from the stream One-seeded Juniper (Juniperus monosperma), Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis) and Netleaf Hackberry (Celtis reticulata) are found. Shrubs of the park include Four-wind Saltbush (Atriplex canescens) and Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata. Wild grapes (Vitis arizonica) and Western Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii) can be found in the cool and wetter parts of Dog Canyon. A variety of cacti species can be found in the park including Strawberry Hedgehog (Echinocereus fendleri), Cane Cholla (Opuntia imbricata) and numerous prickly pears (Opuntia spp.). Aquatic plants like Cattail (Typha angustifolia), Giant Helleborine (Epipactis gigantea) and Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris) are sustained by the stream that flows through the canyon. A botanical resource list is provided by the park staff.
Oliver Lee Memorial State Park is home to mammals that are typically found in the upper Chihuahuan Desert. They include Collared Peccary, Ground squirrels, Mule Deer, Black-tailed Jackrabbit and the Desert Cottontail. These are prey to predators like American Black Bears, Cougars, and Bobcats. American Badgers, North American Porcupines, Raccoon, White-nosed Coati and several species of bats and skunks are also found in the desert of the park. Two species of rattlesnakes are found in the park, Western Diamondback and Black-tail. Several species of lizards, skinks, geckos, turtles, and non-venomous snakes can be found in the park. The Texas horned lizard, which is threatened by loss of habitat, pesticides and development in Texas and Oklahoma, is thriving in the park. The horned lizards are legally protected in the park and throughout New Mexico. Known amphibians found in the park include salamanders and toads. The park is also home to birds such as Turkey Vultures, Red-tailed Hawks, Mourning Doves, hummingbirds, warblers and wrens.
Oliver Lee Memorial State Park is open for year-round recreation. Recreational opportunities include hiking, camping, picnicking and wild life viewing. There are three trails at the park. Dog Canyon Trail begins at the vistor center and climbs the canyon walls over a distance of 5.5 miles (8.9 km) and rising 3,144 feet (958 m). At the top of the canyong the trail enters the neighboring Lincoln National Forest. Two interpretive trails at the park allow visitors to access the riparian environment along the stream in the canyon and the Oliver Lee Ranch House. There are 44 campsites at the park, 16 of which have electric hookups. Picnic ares are available in various locations of the park.
Pancho VillaAt Pancho Villa State Park, several buildings remain from the time of Villa’s 1916 raid, and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These include the 1902 U.S. Customs House, two adobe structures dating from the Camp Furlong-era, and the Camp Furlong Recreation Hall. The old Customs House is now the State Park visitor center, with exhibits describing the histories of Pancho Villa, the Columbus raid of 1916, and Pershing's Punitive Expedition.
Percha DamPercha Dam State Park is a New Mexico State Park located 21 miles south of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico on the Rio Grande River. The park itself encompasses approximately 80 acres. The dam is less than two miles downstream of the much larger, Caballo dam, and therefore Percha dam's reservoir is essentially a wide, slow moving section of river. The dam's purpose is to raise the elevation of the Rio Grande slightly to allow irrigation of the chile pepper crop downstream.
The park is popular for fishing, rafting, kayaking, and bird watching, and it is especially popular during the spring and autumn migration seasons.
Rio Grande Nature CenterThe Rio Grande Nature Center State Park is a state park located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A visitor center designed by architect Antoine Predock in 1982 contains exhibits on the area's riparian environment and a glass-walled library that overlooks a wildlife pond. Two trails lead into the cottonwood forest (or Bosque) from the visitor center.
Some of the species that reside in the park, temporarily or year-round, include turtles, toads, lizards, bullsnakes, dragonflies, beavers, muskrats, cottontail rabbits, pocket gophers, rock squirrels, coyotes, and numerous birds including Cooper's hawks, great-horned owls, American coots, Canada geese, ring-necked pheasants, mallards, wood ducks, black-capped chickadees, great blue herons, northern flickers and woodpeckers.
RockhoundRockhound State Park is a New Mexico State Park located 7 miles southeast of Deming, New Mexico. Named for the abundance of minerals in the area, visitors can search for quartz crystals, geodes, jasper, perlite, and many other minerals. The park is located in the Florida Mountains, a range of low mountains that have become sky islands due to the arid desert between the peaks.
Santa Rosa LakeSanta Rosa Lake State Park is located on the eastern plains of New Mexico. The park features a large 3,800-acre (15 km2) reservoir that is home to various fish species including largemouth bass, catfish and even walleye. The park elevation is 4,800 feet (1,500 m) above sea level. The park is located seven miles (11 km) north of the town of Santa Rosa via New Mexico Route 91.
Storrie LakeStorrie Lake State Park is a New Mexico State Park located 4 miles north of Las Vegas, New Mexico in the Zuni Mountains. The land area of the park is only 81 acres, however the lake itself has a surface area of approximately 1,100 acres.
Activities at the park include camping, hiking, fishing, boating, and water-skiing.
Sugarite CanyonThe Sugarite State Park is a New Mexico state park located 6 miles (9.7 km) northeast of Raton, New Mexico. Sugarite State Park is on the Colorado-New Mexico State border.
The state park was once home to a mining town named Sugarite and had a population of nearly one thousand at its prime. With an increase in the use of butane as a heating source, among others, the town was shut down in 1941.
Sumner LakeSumner Lake State Park is a New Mexico State Park located on the eastern plains of New Mexico about 8 miles northwest of Fort Sumner, New Mexico. The park features a large 4,500-acre (18 km2) reservoir that is home to various fish species including largemouth bass, catfish, crappie and walleye. The park elevation is 4,300 feet (1,300 m) above sea level.
Ute LakeUte Lake State Park is a New Mexico State Park located on the eastern plains of New Mexico. The park features a large 8,200-acre (33 km2) reservoir that is home to various fish species including largemouth bass, catfish, crappie and walleye. The park elevation is 3,900 feet (1,200 m) above sea level. The park is located two miles (3 km) west of the town of Logan, New Mexico.
Vietnam Veterans MemorialVietnam Veterans Memorial State Park was the first major Vietnam memorial in the United States. It is currently the only state park dedicated exclusively to veterans of the Vietnam War. It is located off United States Highway 64 in Angel Fire (Colfax County) in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the Enchanted Circle of northeastern New Mexico.
The memorial was begun by Victor and Jeanne Westphall, the grief-stricken parents of Marine First Lieutenant David Westphall, who was among sixteen young men in his unit killed in an ambush in 1968 in Vietnam. The Westphalls used their son’s insurance policies to begin construction of the Peace and Brotherhood Chapel. The chapel resembles a sail and perches on the hillside overlooking the Moreno Valley. The chapel is open twenty-four hours per day. The David Westphall Veterans Foundation has since supported the operation of the memorial, which was dedicated on the anniversary of David's death in 1971. At the time of its construction, the site received national media attention and helped inspire the establishment of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., completed in 1982. In 1987, the United States Congress recognized Angel Fire as a memorial of national significance.
The park hosts thousands of annual visitors, many moved emotionally by the sacrifice of the Vietnam veterans. In 2005, the site became New Mexico's 33rd state park. It is operated in partnership with the David Westphall Veterans Foundation, which allows it to be the only New Mexico State Park that does not charge a fee.
The Visitor Center, dedicated in 1986, features photographs and banners from some of the 210 units which served in Vietnam. There is a media room which shows the 86-minute Home Box Office documentary film Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam. A Veteran’s Room honors the military personnel killed or missing in action. The POW/MIA flag waves outside the center. The center seeks to educate Americans about Vietnam and to maintain a haven for healing and reconciliation.
The memorial maintains a Huey helicopter known originally as “Viking Surprise”, one of the first smokeships used in Vietnam. On March 26, 1967, the helicopter, while rescuing service personnel, was so bady damaged – 135 bullet holes – that it was returned to the United States for repairs. The copter returned to Vietnam and was later sent to the New Mexico National Guard, which donated it to the Angel Fire memorial.
The memorial also maintains a statue by Doug Scott of Taos, entitled “Dear Mom and Dad”. It depicts a soldier, with his rifle on his shoulder, writing a letter home. There is also a scale model of the Vietnam Women's Memorial by Glenna Goodacre of Santa Fe (born in Lubbock, Texas), which was unveiled on the Washington Mall in 1993.