Day Trips: Bitter Lakes refuge offers variety of activities

The Bitter Lakes National Wildlife refuge was established in 1937 to provide migratory birds a suitable habitat for wintering location and to preserve critical wetlands in the Southwest. (Courtesy photo)

The Bitter Lakes National Wildlife refuge near Roswell is a great place to hike, hunt, and enjoy birdwatching; thousands of migratory birds make the area their winter home. The wetlands provide a wintering habitat for lesser sandhill cranes, Ross and snow geese, and about 20 species of ducks.

Where it is:
The Bitterlakes National Wildlife Refuge is located approximately nine miles northeast of Roswell. To get there from the Portales/Clovis area, take U.S. 70 West to Roswell for about 90 miles. In Roswell, take U.S. 285 South to Pine Lodge Road and go east approximately seven miles to the headquarters office.

What it is:
This refuge was established in 1937 to provide migratory birds a suitable habitat for wintering location and to preserve critical wetlands in the Southwest. The refuge straddles the Pecos River, which provides a crucial habitat for many creatures, both winged and ground-dwellers such as the least shrew, Noels’ amphipod, least tern and Roswell spring snail. The area shelters at least 357 species of birds, at least 59 species of mammals, and over 50 species of reptiles and amphibians. There are 24 species of fish that have been documented as well.

What to do:
The refuge is open to human visitors throughout the year during daylight hours. The headquarters office is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Biking is allowed on the refuge’s eight-mile gravel wildlife trail or on the paved four-mile bike trail. There are four half-mile and two 1-1/2 to four mile hiking trails.

The north tract, which is approximately 12,160 acres, is also open for horseback riding and hiking. There is hunting for waterfowl, sandhill crane, quail, dove, pheasant and deer during the appropriate season, and with the correct license. No fishing is allowed. Different areas offer opportunities for nature photography and viewing of wildlife.

Information:
For information visit the refuge’s Web site at www.fws.gov/southwest/refuge/newmex/bitterlake/recreation or call them at 625-4000.

— Compiled by Mike Jimenez