Friday, April 17, 2015

Carlsbad, NM

Our first stop in New Mexico was Brantley Lake State Park, about 12 miles North of Carlsbad, NM. This past winter has been a wet one for SE New Mexico and the lake is much higher than it has been in many years with lots of flowers blanketing the Chihuahuan desert.

About half the sites at the state park are reserveable and half are first come, first serve. Most sites have a view of the lake and are well separated from each other. A covered picnic table and a BBQ are at each site.

Our view from site #11.

Another view of our site.

Our first full day we drove about 45 minutes South to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. This cave system contains the fifth largest chamber in North America (The Big Room) and the choice of self-guided or ranger-led tours. You can purchase audio guides for the self-guided portion.

We chose to explore at our own pace without the audio tour. We logged about three miles total by entering through the Natural Entrance where you drop, sometimes steeply, about 750 feet into the cavern system. After exploring all the trails open to those without a guide, we returned to the surface via elevator. There were restroom and snack and souvenir facilities down in the cave making it easy to spend several hours underground.

Though the cave system is subtley lighted for walking and to enhance some of the more extraordinary cave features, it is nice to have an additional source of light with you to view some of the dark corners throughout the cave.

On our drive in we spotted a herd of at least 20 big horn sheep on a distant hillside.
Look for the faint brown spots scattered horizontally.

Walnut Canyon.

This cactus wren built its nest right next to the trail leading to the Natural Entrance.

Down, down, down!
This was only the beginning of a long, long drop into the earth!

Once inside my camera did not perform nearly as well as Hans' cell phone so these cave photos are courtesy of Hans.  There were many fabulous formations inside the cave and we were amazed by the enormous size of the rooms we walked through.

On our second full day we visited the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Carlsbad. This is a small New Mexico State Park that showcases the flora and fauna of the Chihuahuan Desert.

One of the more natural animal enclosures.

Mural in the new reptile building.

The Pecos River runs through the area though much of it is diverted to an irrigation canal. Near the center of Carlsbad river water is dammed to create Carlsbad Lake and nice walking trails line both sides of this oasis in the desert.

I wish I could have seen the little turtle make its way up to its lofty sunning spot!

Brantley Lake was a very peaceful place to spend three nights. There are not many trails in the park and the lake loop is no longer a loop due to the high water level, but walking the grounds mid-week was pretty and calm with those great long distance New Mexico views that often include lots of puffy white clouds.

This road used to go to the primitive camping must have been in the trees that are now water bound.

Next up: Roswell, NM.


  1. We were also amazed at the formations down there in the caverns but we did not see those big horn sheep. You are so lucky with wild animals in your outing.s I think the phones have better chance of taking pictures down there for I did not do any better.
    We hiked at Brantley lake from the visitor center towards the campground on a very hot day.

    1. I would recommend staying at Santa Fe Skies RV in Santa Fe, its a good distance and away from traffic. We followed the La Tierra Trails for hiking.

    2. We are planning on staying at Santa Fe Skies this time, last time (2013) we stayed at the park in town.

  2. Fantastic cavern photos. Not the easiest place to photograph! Your campsite looks so very appealing.

  3. Wow, you're pictures inside the cavern came out great! We were there at Brantley and also in the caverns a few weeks ago (minor snowstorm went through) and our pictures aren't as clear as yours.

  4. We love Carlsbad, especially the evening bat flight. Thanks for the great pics

  5. Love the cave!! The photos came out great. Doesn't Hans have the Samsung Galaxy 5 phone? We just got a new phone and that's what we got. We absolutely love it. It takes such gorgeous photos that we use it all the time now. I think I would enjoy doing the tour myself.

    Good to see the lake levels are up so high.

  6. The cavern pictures are spectacular Hans!
    I would say it was your lucky day as we have yet to see any Big Horn Sheep!

  7. That is such a cool shot heading down into the cave, and very nice shots inside, as well. My phone does better than my fancy camera for low-lighting, too. One of these days I'll get around to reading my owner's manual for my camera, haha! Pretty campground -- nice that there's been rain to fill the lake and bring on the wildflowers.

  8. Seems like just yesterday we were at the caverns!;) We really did enjoy the leisurely pace on our self guided tour.