Carlsbad New Mexico Family Adventure Travel Guide 2011
Carlsbad, New Mexico sits in the Chihuahuan Desert in the southeast corner of New Mexico. It is graced with approximately 350 days of sunshine and moderate to hot temperatures year round which makes it an exciting vacation destination. The Pecos River runs through the City of 30,000 and provides year round recreational activities. My family moved here in 2009 and quickly sought out to find things to keep us
active and involved in the community. We quickly found a wealth of activities both in and out of the city but found that many of the best activities were poorly documented and hard to find. What we have attempted to do here is provide a summary of the best activities in this fascinating corner of the southwest and provide simple and current advice how to best enjoy the area and your experiences in the desert.
This booklet is divided into the following sections: 1. Safety in the desert 2. In and around town 3. National Parks 4. BLM Lands 5. National Forest Service 6. Caves 7. Hikes 8. Other areas to explore 9. Parting comments 10. Oba’s best things in Carlsbad list In developing this booklet we talked with a number of local experts and spent a good deal of time with teenagers to find out what they enjoyed. This is our booklet, so we took liberties to describe and name things that weren’t documented. This is our ramblings, so we have named things so that we can remember them. We hope you enjoy this reference and enjoy this exciting part of the country. Safety in the Desert Carlsbad has some of the friendliest people we have ever met in the world. That said, crime is not much of a problem, but any traveler needs to be careful so that they are not an easy target. Let people know where you are going and be alert to your surroundings. The only ongoing crime problems appear to be vandalism and some drug use. Also, there has been some talk of Mexican gangs….however moving here from Ohio was like leaving Iraq and moving to Mayberry.
The real things to worry about here are getting lost, heat exposure, dehydration and rattlesnakes. Keep water with you and in your car. Sunscreen is definitely your friend and avoid the afternoon sun in the summer. Surprisingly, the summer air is cool in the mornings and the heat index is similar to the Midwest. The sun is intense but with a light wind and a shady spot, the summer is beautiful and dry. Lotion and chapstick are a must along with a hat. Also, in a year and a half of wondering all over the place we have only encountered two rattlesnakes. One was just crossing the road, while the other one was a baby … with an attitude. Neither were a problem, but I don’t listen to an iPod when I run through the desert. In and around town Carlsbad lies at the crossroads of of routs 62/180 and 285. Both are 4 lane divided highways and connect to the cities of Hobbs, Roswell, and Pecos. El Paso is the closest major airport about 2.5 hours away, Lubbock, TX and Midland-Odessa TX are less than 3 hours. Albuquerque is approximately 4.5 hours away. There are a number of fun and enjoyable things to do out and around the town. Several of our favorites are discussed below: Carlsbad Lake The Pecos river is dammed up and provides a nice lake in the middle of Carlsbad. There is a five mile cement path
around the lake along with a floating bridge. There is approximately 2 miles of navigable waters that are open to boats, jet skis and canoes. Paddle boats can be rented at the beach that has lifeguards during the summer months. There is also a concession stand where you can book river tours. Wave-runners are also available for rent from a local business who will deliver them to the beach area fully gassed up and ready to go.
On the north end of the cement path around the lake is an old wood railroad bridge. The bridge is marked “notrespassing” but it has a pedestrian walkway on one side. It is routinely used to connect the two sides of the lake. During the summer, kids (and some adults) routinely jump off into the cool river. This is illegal and not recommended….but if you do jump, please make sure that you don’t get run over by the many boats in the river. If you canoe up past the cement path past the “canal street” bridge you will enter the residential area along riverside drive. The homes line the water with boat docks and slides. This is where Christmas on the
Pecos takes place annually. Beyond that you will enter the headwaters of the river which is bordered by parkland and the Carlsbad Country Club golf course. This area is nice to canoe in since it is too shallow for boats and wave-runners. The lake is spring fed and this is a nice area to splash and swim without the worry of the boaters. Along, the river is a state of the art tennis complex (free), a public golf course (cheap), a recreation center with nice racquet ball courts (free) and a new cascades development that promises restaurants and water features for the kids.
Ocotillo Nature Trail The Ocotillo nature trail starts behind the college and is a 0.9 mile trail up to a parking area near the zoo. It cuts through the desert and is a favorite of the locals, who routinely walk or run it in the morning or evening. The trail has a number of benches along it and many of the indigenous plants are labeled. Across from the trail you get a good view of the Living Desert State Park and Zoo. The parking
area at the top is a beautiful place to see the stars and lights of Carlsbad at night.
Flume and Bike-Path The flume is basically a water bridge for the canal located at the north end of Lake Carlsbad. It is an interesting structure. To the north of the flume the Pecos river bed is dry …. which still doesn’t make any sense to me. While to the south is a river 50 yards wide.
The bike path begins at the flume and extends six miles along the canal to Canal street, next to the Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, the bike path is a poor place to bike due to the numerous thorns that grow along and through the path in some portions. You quickly learn that many things are quite sharp in the desert and walking in the grass can be hazardous to your health. On one of our first bike rides through town, I ended up with nine flat tires on five bikes and was very unhappy. The bike path is a good area to run, although some people need to control their dogs better. You quickly learn that the area to the north of Church street is infested with irritating chihuahuas and other small dogs, while the area south of church has far too many pit bulls. The bike path is a good location to see many of the
different cultures. One morning while out running, I met an older woman running fully dressed in traditional Indian clothes carrying a large suncatcher a good mile from the nearest intersection.
Living Desert Zoo and State Park I am not much of a zoo fan, but the Living Desert is a real treat. This zoo is a state park is located on Miehls avenue (commonly known as C Hill – due to the large C behind the high school). The zoo has a one mile walking path through it with a number of indigenous animals housed inside. Like much of the area, there are few visitors and the animals appear to enjoy looking at the tourists as much as they enjoy looking at them. There are several signs warning you not to pet the mountain lion, (and you shouldn’t – my wife tells me) but it is hard not too when it is rubbing the cage and purring. For a while there was an insane blue jay in the aviary that would screech and do everything possible to get a peck at your head. Unfortunately, the jay must of pecked one too many visitors and has been freed from his captivity.
Lake Avalon Lake Avalon is located about five miles out of town and can be reached by driving north on Canal Street and turning left on Avalon road. This man made reservoir has a dirt path along the bank and is a favorite of local teens and appears to be one of the local evening hangouts. I recommend leaving the young lovers along, but this is a nice place to go during the day to let the dogs run or to walk along the water. National Parks There are two national parks just outside of Carlsbad. Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe National Parks. Much is written regarding these parks and they are great places to visit and hike. Check out their
web pages for great ideas and there ongoing variety of events.
Carlsbad Caverns Wow!! What an incredible place. I recommend taking the natural entrance and enjoying the hike. Between the natural entrance and the great room you will get a little over two miles of hiking in an absolutely stunning cavern. The natural entrance closes early every day so plan accordingly. The primary exit is via the elevator, but I have been told that you can walk out if you request a special permit. However, if you have extra energy to burn, you may want to catch one of the several hikes on the surface. During the summer, the bat flight is popular at dusk. But this becomes old after about 10 minutes of watching the thousands of bats swirling out into the sky. The bats will continue to come out until well after dark. About once a month, there is a star party in the parking lot after the bat flight. Local amateur astronomers will set up several telescopes to view the various planets and constellations. The zoo also will periodically host these star parties which are well worth checking out.
There a number of “wild caves” that you can either pay to tour with a ranger (like slaughter canyon) or explore on your own. Unfortunately, at this time most of these caves are closed due to “white nose syndrome” which is impacting bat colonies throughout the US. Fortunately, it has not been detected in New Mexico yet and the precautions are being implemented to prevent its spread. This has impacted many caves but with over 600 in the area there are plenty of opportunities. I will discuss several of our favorites in the caving section of this booklet.
Guadeloupe National Park Guadeloupe National Park is about 55 miles from Carlsbad on the road heading to El Paso and is considered a hikers park. There are over 80 miles of trails that can lead you from the desert to pine forests to vast fields of grass. Depending on the season, there are some great areas to see the leaves change color during fall (usually November). These include McKittrick Canyon and the Devil’s Hall trail. You will find plenty of information on these areas on the park websites. Our favorite is Devil’s
Hall trail which about four miles round trip. There are plenty of rocks for the kids to play on as you hike up a small streambed to some impressive rock formations in a box canyon.
Guadeloupe Peak trail is the most popular trail in the park and leads to the highest peak in Texas. The trail is 7.8 miles roundtrip and is frequently snow covered in the winter and spring. High winds on the trail can make it interesting and you have to be on the look-out for thunderstorms especially in the summer months. This trail leads from the trailhead parking area behind the Pine Springs visitor center and passes through the desert until you get high enough to enter the pine forest. The hike is not overly difficult but bring plenty of water. From the summit you get a great view of the mountains, salt flat and the metropolis of Dell City (one of my favorite places – you can always find Dell City land for sale cheap on Ebay – my wife however is never amused about me even joking about buying anything in Dell City.)
Our favorite hike in the park is a little difficult to coordinate but well worth the effort. The Tejas trail extends form Pine Springs on one side of the park to Dog Canyon on the other side of the park. The trail is well marked and transverses about 12 miles of desert, pine forests and grasslands before terminating in the most remote section of the park. On our first visit to Dog Canyon which is approximately 50 miles from Carlsbad (and 110 miles from Pine Springs – on the other end of the park) the wild flowers were in bloom and it looked like we had left New Mexico and stepped into a scene from the Sound of Music in Switzerland. Wide open fields covered with grass and flowers with maybe six other people anywhere in sight. My wife dropped me and my son/daughter off at Pine Springs and drove around to pick us up
twice. But I have been told that some people use two cars and drive to each side of the park to start the hike and meet for lunch in the middle, trading keys and continuing to complete the hike. Later they meet up in Carlsbad to share stories and have a well earned dinner. On our first hike my son and I found a camera at the Tejas campground on the trail. When we got back to the car we turned the camera on and found that it had apparently been dropped at the campground four months earlier. The camera worked fine and we were able to return it to its owner in San Francisco…definitely making his day.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) The BLM has an office in town which can provide a wealth of information on things to do in and around Carlsbad. Several of our favorite wild caves are on BLM land and you can get permits, maps and step-off logs for many different ones at the BLM office. I will talk more about the caves later, but the BLM has several other fun places to visit.
Cottonwood Day use Area A little known gem lies on the road to slaughter canyon (mile marker 10 off of route 62/180 – five miles past white city and the turn to Carlsbad Caverns). As you follow the signs to Slaughter Canyon you will pass a small picnic area on the left hand side of the road. This is the Cottonwood picnic area which a free area managed by the BLM. It sits along the Black River which is not visible from the road. Park and follow the trail to the north from the parking lot. About 100 yards down the trail a deck along the river will become visible and you will find a beautiful spot to picnic and swim. One of the local BLM staff told us this was one of his favorite places to snorkel. The water is crystal clear and the fish have no fear of you and will swim right up to you. The water is deep and the shoreline does have some weeds and mud, but it is a great place to cool off after a hot day playing in the desert. Going south out of the parking lot there is a trail that goes to a small dam. This was a nice walk but the water was a little smelly and gross behind the dam.
Rattlesnake Springs On your way to the Cottonwood day use area, you will pass Rattlesnake Springs which is part of Carlsbad Caverns National Park and is a beautiful place to picnic and birdwatch. There is a large natural spring which is used to irrigate the local area which makes it popular with the birds. It is a nice stop. And like the Cottonwood area you are likely to have the area completely to yourself.
are only 20 minutes away they are a fun divergence. National Forest Service Lands The NFS has an office in Carlsbad and are another source for cave information and various things to do on the forest lands. During the Christmas season you can by a permit to cut a tree for $5.
Hackberry Lake Hackberry Lake is another BLM recreation area on the other end of Carlsbad off of 62/180 (Hobbs Highway). The turn off goes to the North and heads to a potash mine. Near the potash mine there is a marked turn to the east. Continue on that road and you will come to a picnic area with a series of sand dunes and trails for off-road vehicles. There is no water at hackberry lake just a series of small sand dunes that are great for sledding, rolling or just sitting on. The dunes are nowhere as impressive as white sands but since they
Sitting Bull Falls Sitting Bull Falls is a fee area managed by the NFS and located about 30
miles out of town. Take Rt 285 North and turn west just before you get to Lake Brantley State Park on the Queen Highway toward Dog Canyon. The road to Sitting Bull walls is well marked and goes off to the right about five miles before you enter the forest. The falls are a short walk from the parking lot and is a great little area for wading or just sitting. There are modern restrooms and water available. There are about 10 miles of trails up the hillside from the parking area and even a cave behind the falls (permit required). My son has said this is one of his favorite places to spend time in the area and something you should not miss. Caves As I stated before there are over 600 wild caves in the Carlsbad area. Many of these require extreme technical skills and make the movie “Descent” look like “Toy Story”. The caves I have listed are just fun places to visit are easy to get to (after you find them the first time) and do not require special geer or skills..just a hearty sense of adventure and the willingness to get a little dirty. The directions that are provided are a mixture of the official set-off logs (almost always wrong) and our actual experiences. As for equipment, you will need a helmet (biking helmet or hard hat works fine, flashlights (headlamps), knee pads (for some caves) and extra shoes/socks for one. It is recommended that each person has three light sources. If you are in a group that intends to stay together you can back down on that some – especially for these
caves. I usually give everyone a headlamp (with new batteries), and a flashlight (we always stay together). I carry extra lights, batteries and a chemical light stick or two just in case. As for kneepads, you can buy these in any hardware store or Walmart in the hardware/painting sections for just a few dollars. We use my daughter’s old volleyball and soccer pads. Cottonwood Cave Cottonwood Cave was the first “wild cave” that was recommended to us. It is on National Forest Service land a little over an hour from Carlsbad. Getting to the cave is an adventure in itself and you need a vehicle with a good clearance. We drive a small SUV (Kia Sportage) and it works fine. The drive is across gravel and dirt roads up to a parking area next to a fire lookout tower. The trail leave the parking lot and takes you on about a third of a mile walk to the side of the hill and a beautiful cave with about a 60 foot opening. The forest service requires a permit to enter the cave but there is no lock or gate. The cave actually has multiple levels but you can only do the primary level without a forest service employee with you. Cottenwood is in a beautiful setting and you can spend the entire day touring the cave, hiking around the area, climbing up the fire lookout tower and picnicking. Some people we have met routinely camp in the area and it’s a good spot to access a number of the forest service caves. The permits are free and can be obtained at the forest service office in town. Recently, they have imposed a two
week minimum “reservation period”. Its kind of hard to believe that they would do that with as few permits that they issue.
Parks Ranch Cave: This cave is dangerous if it rains. Do not be a drowning victim – stay out if there is any chance of rain.
My ratings of the organizations that permit entry into caves: National Park Service: Most bureaucracy – one month notice needed, most restrictive – don’t touch anything – even the bat poop is precious; National Forest Service – restrictive – all caves require permits – even if they don’t know where they are at – nice but not very helpful staff – “I heard this cave is nice but I don’t know where it is”; Bureau of Land Management – very helpful, love their work and know what they are doing, permits available of the spot….heck they may even come and hangout in the cave with you if they haven’t been there in awhile.
If Cottonwood cave is one of the prettiest hikes/caves…Parks ranch is by far the most fun. This is a gypsum cave and has well over 14 miles of passages underground. Unlike the caverns or the caves in the Forest, this cave has been carved out by water flowing through the gypsum. This is a must for anyone visiting us. It is near the road, easy to get to and has many entrances/exits, so every trip can be a different experience. This cave requires no permit and maps are available at the BLM. We are working on “Vincent” maps/diagrams which will actually be readable to the novice but it is fun trying to figure out where you are at. This is a “wet” cave so from time to time you may find yourself wading. The water is never too cold but you will come out of this cave, wet dirty and smiling.
Directions to Cottonwood Cave: Recommended Items: Helmet (probably won’t need it – but best to have it the rocks are hard), lights, knee pads for the very back – optional.
In Parks Ranch there are two “surveys”: A and B. We mostly play in the B survey and have been trying to find the easiest way in and out without too much
water or crawling. On our last visit we entered the A survey and were stunned by the rock formations that we found – some old cow bones also made for some great stories. We rarely encounter anyone at this cave which is very surprising. Although this cave is less than two miles from the road, a reasonable high clearance vehicle (SUV or truck is recommended). The drive is across level land but there are plenty of ruts in the road. After playing in the cave, there a number of roads/paths in the area which are good for hiking. When you drive into the area you will encounter two fenced areas. The fences are there to keep the animals out. We recommend parking next to the second (larger) fenced area. From there you will enter the gate and follow the path down a short hill. There are a number of entrances into the caves but the main two (we think) are at the bottom of the hill one above the other. The lower entrance is “survey A”, while the upper entrance is “survey B”. Survey A: Once you enter the cave you will have to crouch and will come across several puddles near the entrance. Once you get past these, the cave opens up and you can walk through most of it. You will see how the water flows and in some spots you will need to crawl. Near the middle of the cave (we think) the roof will be 25-30 feet high and the formations are incredible. The cave is a great place for photo’s since the gypsum is white and adds a brightness to the shots. We have not found our way all the way through this
“survey” but we are working on a good route and a good map.
Survey B: If you enter cave in the higher opening you can walk several hundred yards into the cave without encountering water or low ceilings. When you come to the first fork in the cave, you can go left or right. If you follow the trail to the right you will eventually come out in the smaller fenced in area. If you go to the left, you will need to wade but you can work your way well into the cave system. We have hiked and explored two hours in this section of the cave without ever getting into the back portion of the cave. Up until recently you could hike all the way through and out of the cave. Unfortunately, the passage is blocked in the very rear and you now have to swim underwater to get out. BLM is aware of this and hopes to get the blockage
removed. Please check with them if you want to hike all the way through this portion of the cave.
After you get out of the cave, if you walk around the larger fenced in area and you will find a trail that will take you to additional entrances into the cave. This is a nice area to explore and hike. There are several areas where there is evidence of Indian campsites with broken pottery and probably other remnants of their culture.
There is also another large opening to the cave in a “pit” about 100 yards north of the fenced area.
Travel about a mile and you will see the two fenced areas.
Directions to Park Ranch Cave: Recommended Items: Lights, Helmets, Knee Pads, old shoes From Carlsbad take 62/180 toward El Paso (south) at mile marker 10 you will see a dirt road on the north side of the divided highway. You will need to make a U-turn unless you cut through the median. If you continue south about three quarters of a mile there is a pass where you can make an easy Uturn location. Return to the dirt road. Go east/north on the dirt road 0.2 miles and turn left. Go about a mile until you go through a gate and then turn right following the fenceline.
Mudgett’s Cave Mudgett’s cave is another cave located on BLM property that doesn’t require any permits and is a fun place to hike and explore. It is a little more off the beaten path and does require hiking up a steep hill to get to the entrance. This is another fun outing that can be done year round. The entrance to the cave has been mined and is very dusty (this is an understatement). You will need to take dust masks with you into this cave. These can be purchased for one or two dollars at Wal-Mart or any of the dollar stores in town. To get to the cave you will need to drive a number of miles on gravel/dirt roads which can be fun if there is any standing water. On one trip, it took us
five trips to find the cave, the road was wet and we absolutely covered the SUV with mud. On another trip, a roadrunner led us over two miles down the road toward the cave.
moon. There is a fine powder on the floor which is extremely thick. There is also remnants from the previous mining operations. Once you get past this area, the cave continues and is wet and growing. There are numerous nice formations. Directions to Mudgett’s Cave: Recommended Items: Jeans, Helmets, Lights, Knee pads (not absolutely required), Dust Mask Start at the corner of Hidalgo Road and route 62/180 south of town. (Happy’s restaurant – great place for burgers or breakfast burrito’s) Travel west on Hildalgo road 9.4 miles (where it ends) and turn right on Dark Canyon road. Go 10.1 miles and turn left on the gravel/dirt road.
The cave is approximately a mile from where you need to park your car and you are virtually guaranteed to having the area to yourself. You will hike down a road and once you see the cave you will need to follow cow paths to the streambed below the cave. The hike up the hill is exciting. There are lots of lose rocks and cactus in the area. Long pants are required. There are remnants of a steel cable going up to the cave which can be helpful in identifying the best way to make it up to the cave. Once you get into the cave – you have to duck at the entrance – it opens up and looks like you have just landed on the
Go 1.7 miles (you will notice an old windmill on your left) bear left Follow the road 3.7 miles until you reach two locked gates. This will take you across several cattle guards, past some oil and gas tanks, and through one gate. When you reach the gates, park in front of the one furthest to the left. Hike under gate and follow the road approximately a half mile until you reach an old cattle holding area and well. The area between the gate and the cattle holding area is private land. So you should stay on the road. The cave is on public land.
Doc Brito Cave Doc Brito cave is a BLM managed cave and requires a permit. This is a little more of an adventure but it is in a fun area to hike and picnic. The cave is easily accessed and is near to town. On the hike to the cave you pass a small rock arch and have access to two nice canyons for hiking. Additionally, this is a great area to pick up a small cactus or two as a souvenir. There are numerous pretty little cacti that can be seen growing between the rocks throughout the area.
Directions to Doc Brito Cave: Recommended Items: Helmets, Light, Knee Pads, Permit
Turn left and proceed up out of the streambank for 50 steps. The turn is marked by a small rock pile. The area is distinguished by a sharp left turn in the streambed and a steep (almost vertical) wall on the right side of the streambed. The cave is flush with the ground and covered by a steel grate approximately six foot square. The area is full of brush and cactus which can make the grate difficult to see unless you are close to it.
Drive south from Carlsbad on Rt 62/180 approximately 10 miles out of town you will pass Black River road on the left. Continue straight, approximately 100 yards past the intersection you will cross a small bridge. Immediately past the bridge you will see a gravel road leading up to a pad on the right. Take this road and park near the to the water tank on the pad. Take the dirt road parallel to the National Park Hwy to the North that follows the fiber-optic cable line into the stream bed. (0.25m) Go west following the cow path along the streambed 900 steps to “Babyduck arch” visible on the right hand wall of the streambed. (0.5m) Continue west (upstream), for 125 steps from the base of the arch.
Hikes In addition to the trails in the parks and described in the previous sections, there are several other nice locations to go for a hike. Remember, to let people know where you are going and be aware of snakes and the cactus in the desert. Yellow jacket Cave Area Yellow jacket cave is now closed due to white nose syndrome but the area is still a nice area to hike and see Indian artifacts as well as the fossilized coral reef that makes up the Guadalupe Mountains. From Happy’s at the corner take Hildalgo road to the west. Just before it meets Dark Canyon road you will see a dirt road going off to the right. Pull in and drive up to the small pad where you can park.
There is a dirt road that leads up hill and runs parallel to Dark Canyon Road. This dirt road is difficult to drive but is the primary access to the Yellow jacket cave which is about one half a mile up the road on the left side. It lies about 40 yards off the road in a clump of bushes. If you are observant, you will detect it by the solar panel which runs the bat counter. Also, there is a small conduit that sticks out of the ground where you would normally turn to get near the cave. It took us four tries to find this cave but this led to several nice afternoons hiking in the sun through the desert.
This is an out and back hike and when you return to your car. Walk through the desert toward the corner of Hidalgo and dark canyon roads. There you will see large slabs of rock where ancient Indians grown there corn. The grinding of the corn made numerous perfectly round holes in the rock that appear that they could have been drilled. Also, if you look around you will see fossils of the coral reef that existed hundreds of millions of years ago when this area was part of the Permian sea.
The movie “Gargoyle” was filmed in Carlsbad in 1972 in the Caverns and in several other locations in the area. The actual entrance to the Gargoyle’s cave lies about a half mile west up Dark Canyon Road from the intersection of Hidalgo and Dark canyon roads. The area is particularly attractive and the cave is more of a hole but it is easily visible from Dark Canyon road on the left.
down on the left that leads into the desert. This is the mail entrance to La Cueva Mountain Bike Trail. This is a 22 mile singletrack mountain bike trail. It is hardly ever used and is a nice place to hike in the desert or to try out your biking skills. The trail is really old dirt/gravel roads but it is fairly well marked, so enjoy. Other Unique Things: In this same area there are several dirt roads on the right where you can park and access a streambed that has a number of Indian artifacts and is a nice area to explore.
Carlsbad has a number of intriguing opportunities and enjoyable things to do. Below is a short list of unique things to try and enjoy.
Other area to explore: There are a number of other fun things to do in and around Carlsbad for the adventurous type, some of these are well know, others are not, but they all can lead to an enjoyable afternoon.
La Cueva Mountain Bike Trail As you were driving down Hidalgo road you may of noticed Standpipe road on the right hand side. If you were to turn left, you would notice a dirt road about 0.3 miles
Carlsbad has been associated with our nuclear history and currently is home to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) which is the only deep geological repository for radioactive waste in the United States. But long before the US worried about nuclear waste, a number of nuclear bombs were detonated in the United States for “peaceful” applications. The program was called “plowshare” and the first nuclear detonation under this program was
conducted just outside of Carlsbad in 1961. The idea was to use the nuclear bomb to create a cavity in the salt where natural gas could be stored and to conduct several nuclear physics experiments. The test failed and radioactive gas was released into the environment. The site has been cleaned up and there is a maker identifying the actual site of the detonation. This is one of the few areas in the country where “nuclear tourists” walk into an actual location where a nuclear detonation occurred. Unlike the “Trinity site” near Alamogordo, this site is not restricted and can be visited yearround.
If you explore the area you may find remnants of the facility constructed to conduct the test. All radiation has been removed from the area and it is safe but digging is restricted. The ground is quite sandy and soft and a number of old roads are in the area which makes it a nice place to walk and explore. As you drive back, off in the distance to the right you have a good view of the WIPP site. To get to the Gnome site, take Rt 285 south out of town toward Pecos.
Before you reach the town of Loving, Route 31 will go off to the left. Take Rt 31 to the route 128 junction. Turn right and follow the road 7.3 miles to Eddy County road 795 (Mobley Ranch Road). Go straight for 5.0 miles (795 will turn to the right, do not turn, but continue straight). You will go through a gate and pass a concrete pad on your left, just before coming to the turn. You will see a small dirt road to the left, turn and proceed about a quarter mile to the marker. Also in the area, are several potash mines and “karst” formations. Shortly after you turn on Mobley Ranch Road, the road will dogleg. Park you call at the dogleg and walk approximately 200 yards to the west. Large karst formations can be observed in the area. Be careful when walking to make sure you don’t step into any holes or crevices. It you continue on Rt 128 approximately one mile past Mobley Ranch road, you will come to a small dirt road on the left. This road leads to an abandoned (and sealed) potash mine. Explore the area to the north where numerous other karst formations may be seen. (We have just learned of these formations and have not explored these yet.) Wine Tasting If you enjoy a nice glass of wine there are two locations in and near Carlsbad to partake. In Carlsbad, at the corner of Canal and Fox in the downtown area you will find the Trinity Hotel. This restaurant, bed and breakfast and coffee shop has a wine bar
and offers free wine tasting most afternoons. They have been having more formal wine tastings on Sat afternoons at 3:45 but call first to make sure they are still planned. On the north side of Artesia just off rt 285 is Cottonwood Winery which offers wine tasting and has bands frequently during the summer months. Remember not to drink and drive but enjoy your stay. Swimming In addition to the beach swimming area and the Cottonwood Day Use Area, there is a very nice pool at the High School that is open to the public. This natatorium is one of the nicest indoor swimming complexes that I have seen. If you are a member of the Elks Club or are friends with a member, they have a beautiful pool which overlooks the Pecos
River and the beach which is open during the summer. There is also an indoor swimming pool at the CARC Farm on Cherry Lane. (As I understand it, you must be 55 or handicapped to use this pool, but I am told it is quite nice.) Parting Comments: Carlsbad is a fantastic little community nestled in the desert of the Great American Southwest. It is one of the few places left where you can truly enjoy the outdoors with miles and miles of solitude. It is by far one of the most unique places in our great country and a true gem. Whether you are coming here for a visit or a lifetime, you will feel welcome and will meet great people. Hope to see you out on the trails or on the river with a glass of wine!
Oba’s Best Things to enjoy in Carlsbad I hope you enjoy our little travel guide to this great little city. When I moved here I posted a question on Facebook about are the best places to eat and stay in town. Since I have lived here a year and a half, I have developed my own opinions and recommendations (Disclaimer: there are many good places to eat or stay and I can’t list them all …. So stay around and try all the other places too…they are all good) Hotels: Ok if you are not hanging out at my place….and we usually have an extra room…try these: 1. Trinity Inn – Historic, renovated, bed and breakfast in the downtown area...rooms come with a glass of wine…how can you go wrong. (little expensive for the area) 2. Hampton Inn – New and Shiny. Owned by the same folks that own the Holiday Inn Express another nice hotel. 3. Fairfield Inn – Not quite open yet as I write my list (Feb 2011). But another new bright and shiny hotel. (Owned by the former Mayor Bob Forrest – its hard to write about Carlsbad without mentioning the Mayor – good man- believes in the town…also owns the Stevens Best Western Inn) Restaurants: This is tough and I love Mexican food. New Mexico may be the best place in America to eat hot peppers and the culture is fascinating. Every fall all three major grocery stores roast hatch chilies outside of the stores and peppers seem to be sold everywhere. Below are my favorites: 1. China Lantern – Joe the owner will make any kind of burrito (yes I said burrito) you can image and they have the best onion rings (yes I said onion rings) that I have ever had. Also, I have never been to a Chinese restaurant with as good of Mexican food. Try your onion rings with a little soy sauce and Chinese mustard and end your meal with a fortune cookie. (They also have Chinese food if you are interested.) 2. Rojas – Great family Mexican restaurant. Tim is the owner and will frequently visit with all patrons. The green chili enchiladas here are the best in town (next to my wife’s) and the sopapillas are incredible. Seriously try the sopapillas and you will fall in love with this town. 3. Red Chimney BBQ – On canal, a nice atmosphere with good BBQ. 4. Cortez – Mexican restaurant on Canal….free sopapillas with ever meal. 5. Trinity Inn – Formal Italian Dining – Great stop for Lunch 6. The Stock Exchange at the Old Courthouse – Great steaks with and award winning chief. 7. Dragon China Buffet – All you can eat and as good as we have found anywhere.
8. Lucy’s Mexican Cantina – Sports bar with a nice atmosphere and TV’s in each booth. – avoid Karaoke Night 9. Steven’s Best Western – Formal to casual dining – good steaks 10. The No-Whiner Diner – American cooking – provides mini- loaves of bread with dinner 11. Mia Casita – Modern Mexican restaurant on main street 12. Blue House Bakery – on main, great fresh baked French pastries, nice place for lunch – not open for dinner 13. The Little Tea Pot – My wife forced me to add it, but I have not been there. They will set-up tea parties for little girls to enjoy and have good sandwiches. Don’t feel bad if you have a restaurant and didn’t make my list…..just invite me over…I’m a local Ice Cream: 1. The Sweet Spot – on Guadalupe street….my only regret is I don’t make it over every Tuesday for a $2 milkshake. Great people…gave us free chocolate covered strawberries when they learned that we were new to town. 2. Kaleidoscoops – on Canal, used to be Baskin-Robins I believe. Traditional Ice Cream store…very good. Grocery Store Notes: 1. LaTienda (Thriftway) – on Canal – Mexican grocery store – Tortilla machine in store makes the best tortilla’s I have ever had and is a fun place to look around. I send their tortillas home with everyone that visits. 2. Albertsons – Church Street – Best wine selection in town. Jim is the wine guy and in every Friday…he can point you toward some good wine deals and tell you some good stories. Web Sites/Facebook: The following sites can provide you additional information and make sure to check in with the Chamber of Commerce on Canal Street when you come to town for graet information. Carlsbad: http://www.cityofcarlsbadnm.com/ BLM: http://www.blm.gov/nm/st/en/fo/Carlsbad_Field_Office.html NPS: http://www.blm.gov/nm/st/en/fo/Carlsbad_Field_Office.html NFS: http://www.blm.gov/nm/st/en/fo/Carlsbad_Field_Office.html Zoo: http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us/PRD/livingdesert.htm
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