Oliver Lee Memorial State Park/Drive West on 82

Trip Start Feb 09, 2013
Trip End Jun 30, 2013

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Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Saturday, March 30, 2013

Saturday, March 30.  We left Carlsbad and headed north on 285 to Artesia and we passed more oil wells in this 35 mile stretch than we have seen in all of Texas.  I will note some of the little towns we passed through on this drive because we had to turn to the west in Artesia and head through Cloudcroft and Alamogordo before heading south again another 12 miles to our campground Oliver Lee Memorial State Park which I reviewed below.

    Artesia –This town was named for the huge underground water supply and that is how the town got its name.  The water is pumped to the surface and it irrigates thousands of acres of farmland.  I think most of the farmland has oil wells all over it now plus cattle.  The second biggest resource is oil discovered in 1924 and then they discovered reserves of natural gas.  It is one of the most productive oil areas in NM.  It also has an underground school which was built for the students and locals as an underground bomb shelter in case of a nuclear attack.  What was interesting is that we had to drive down West Main Street and they have bronze statues here along the street that is huge some almost 15ft high.  The first statue we saw was Pecos Pete with his lasso chasing some cattle, another was of a Mexican cowboy, next there was a school teacher with two students and the last one we spotted was huge almost took up a whole park of townspeople and workers next to an oil well working.  They were stunning and I could not get any pictures because we did not find any place to park the RV.  The town is a big snowbird place in the winter and it seems to have everything.  One can find shops, restaurants, gas and heading west a ski area about 90 miles west through.  It was much cooler here than after we drove through the mountains and down to Alamogordo.  The temperature went from 45 degrees there to 80 degrees after the drive.

Roswell - This town is located about 20 miles north of Artesia and it has farming, manufacturing and oil wells.  Roswell is known for the reports of flying saucers and little green men on a ranch during the 40's that was covered up by the government.  There is a UFO Museum & Research Center which has exhibits about the "Roswell Incident” the military’s recovery and cover-up of extraterrestrial debris from the ranch.  Every July there is a UFO Festival for four days of alien inspired activities such as a parade with costumes, and lectures given by UFO investigators and witnesses.  This town is known as the "Alien Capital of the World”.  This is also home to the Eastern New Mexico University (branch) and the famous New Mexico Military Institute in which journalists Sam Donaldson, Chuck Roberts, Conrad Hilton (Hilton Hotel Founder), and author Paul Horgan (Pulitzer Prize winner) attended.  Roswell is another town that is a big snowbird destination in the winter and I am sure someday my neighbor Bob Allen will retire here as his intergalactic port (in his dreams).

   As we drove west on 82 we passed ranch after ranch and to our north was the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation all along the way.  Then we reached the mountains.  Warnings are posted in Artesia and all along this route that trucks over 65ft long and 15ft high cannot take this road.  After Cloudcroft there is 16 miles down, down, down at a 6% grade with one little break and then down another mountain and with a tunnel thrown in for the ride.  There was also a nice viewing site just before the tunnel where I took some pictures of the mountains and canyons below.  George did a great job of driving here and there were two truck runaway pullouts along the route.  We were glad when the 16 miles were over with and let out a big sigh!

   Cloudcroft – This village at the top of the Sacramento Mountains is a big ski resort in the winter and in the summer a great place to ride horses, camp and hiking in the Lincoln National Forest.

Alamogordo – We had to have a gas stop in this town that was founded as a railroad terminal.  As the town grew- ranching, lumber production, farming and tourism expanded this small town into a little city but when the Holloman Air force Base was located here it really grew.  White Sands National Monument is located here and we will be stopping there tomorrow heading west but we could see from our site the sand blowing in the distance.  The Air Force Missile Development Center is west of town as well as the White Sands Missile Range which tests, evaluates and researches.  Some of the missiles are on display but one needs a permit to visit that.  There is also the New Mexico Museum of Space History which is one of the biggest tourist spots in the state.

  We really are enjoying our site at this state park but we almost turned around because it did not look safe.  All of a sudden at the end of the road there was the campground with the mountain at our backs and the valley below.  We had the highest site and we actually got level so it was nice.  Nice hiking trails here.  Heading west tomorrow and staying at another NM State Park.

Saturday, March 30 – Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, Alamogordo, New Mexico

This is a state park located 12 miles south of Alamogordo in the southern part of the state.  It is located off of route 54 south about 12 miles south of Alamogordo and then another 4 miles on Dog Canyon Road.  We were almost thinking of turning around because all we could see in front of us was a mountain and nothing else and then at the end of the road there was the campground. It is situated in a green oasis around the springs of Dog Canyon that is a deep ravine on the west facing flank of the Sacramento Mountains.  There is a Visitor Center with exhibits and a mile away there are tours at 3 on weekends for the restored house of rancher Oliver Milton Lee.  It seems Oliver was a Democrat and got into trouble with some Republicans.  Pat Garrett tried to arrest him and there was a gun battle but he got away.  Eventually he turned himself in.  The campground has two loops and some of the sites you might have trouble getting level but we had site 1 and were able to get our 25ft RV level with the most beautiful views of the mountains behind us and the valley below.  Some sites can be reserved and less than half of them have water and electric.  There are some hiking trails - one about five miles up the canyon and then a pretty half mile hike down along the springs but beware of flash floods.  The campground has a dump station, hot showers, interpretive programs, picnic, and wildlife viewing and modern restrooms   It was not full on Saturday night but all the electric sites had been taken so you might want to reserve a site before you come. It was $14 for the site and on Reserve America another $10 for a transaction fee.
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Fran Zanni on

Hi Karen. Have been enjoying your trip from afar. Makes me want to get on the road again. At least my quilt gets to travel.

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