Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Bitter Lake NWR - New Mexico

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge is located northeast of Roswell, New Mexico. It has two sections. The first section, which we visited, is about 11 miles from Roswell (by road - less mileage as the crow flies), was established in 1937 and consists of 24,609 acres (38.5 square miles) at the adjoining edges of the Chihuahua Desert and Southern Plains. The symbolic boundary between these landscapes is the Pecos River which runs through it creating oxbow lakes. The underground Roswell aquifer erodes the gypsum in the area and creates sinkholes which have become deep lakes. Bitter Lakes was initially established to protect migratory birds like the sandhill crane and snow goose, but has also helped protect rare native pupfish, a wide variety of dragonflies and damselflies, and has recorded at least 350 species of birds. 
This map of the first section shows the Pecos River to the east, a string of lakes in the middle, and the Auto Route, which we took, which goes down the west side of the lakes and then up the east side of the lakes. 
The 9,621 acre (15 square mile) Salt Creek Wilderness, north of the first section, was added to Bitter Lake NWR in 1970. This section gets few migratory birds and has no wetlands, but it protects red rock bluffs, and native animals, has a portion of the Pecos River and some sinkhole lakes.   
This map shows the first section of Bitter Lake NWR northeast of Roswell and the second section, Salt Creek Wilderness, north of the first section.  
We visited on June 30, late morning, after several days of rain and flash-floods in the area. Fortunately the auto route is a gravel road which prevents the road from getting too muddy and impassable. Following are some photos of our visit:
Evidence of recent rain is to the right of the sign. 

More evidence of rain in the puddles in the entrance road. 

The clouds that brought the recent rains were incredibly beautiful. 

American avocets at the edge of one of the lakes. 
A blue grosbeak, a first for me. 

Double-crested cormorants.


Red-winged blackbird

Western meadowlark

Swainson's hawk
We went at a bad time of year, at a bad time of day, but still saw some wildlife and some beautiful scenery. I would love to visit during the height of the migratory season. This is a great refuge. 


  1. Lots of beautiful birds, but I think the red-wing blackbird was my favorite, especially because we got to hear its call/song, which you captured in your photo.

  2. You must be lucky, you we through Roswell and were not abducted by aliens. :)