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Southern tour

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As our tour of the New Mexico State Parks continues, now that it is finally starting to cool off, it’s time to dip back south again, this time to visit a few of the state parks in the Southeast Region.

Living Desert State Park

Mountain lions are among the 40 Chihuahuan Desert species on display at the Living Desert State Park. (Courtesy of New Mexico State Parks)

With Halloween rapidly approaching, the staff at Living Desert in Carlsbad thought tying an event to the holiday would be a good way to attract children.

And thus the first “Boo in the Zoo” event was born, scheduled from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 27.

The main feature will be a scavenger-type hunt for kids to roam the zoo looking for answers to a series of questions to win prizes, said zoo director David Heckard.

“We’re trying to make it as educational as possible,” he said. “And the animals can be spooky. A lot of the animals are used in costumes so we consider them scary things. We’re trying to educate people about animals.”

The hope is to also have a local expert on tarantulas give a presentation about the hopelessly frightful-appearing arachnids.

This native wildlife zoo, accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, exhibits more than 40 species of animals and hundreds of species of plants native to the Chihuahuan Desert.

It will be showcasing what the desert night is like with an Oct. 20 moonlight hike through the 1.2-mile park. It will be the final one of the year.

“It’s a guided tour through the zoo and we do it as close to full moon as possible,” Heckard said. “The tour guide will have a flashlight with a red light so that we can show the animals without scaring them.”

The night time events are a nice change of pace from the hotter day time hours, he said.

“Animals’ activities are restricted when it gets hot,” Heckard said. “At night, you can see the animals walking around. They don’t get upset and we don’t bother them. Most people say it’s great to see the cats, mountain lions and bobcats, running around in their enclosure. It’s kind of fun.”

The night events are always popular, he said, and reservations are required.

Bottomless Lakes State Park

So named, legend goes, because the 1800s vacqueros could neither swim to the bottom nor tie enough lariats together to reach its depths.

Hiking among the eight cenotes in the Bottomless Lakes State Park can be fun. (Courtesy of the City Of Roswell)

The park – the state’s first commissioned in 1933 – encompasses a series of eight lakes that remain filled via subterranean runoff through the limestone substrate.

The biggest and deepest, Lea Lake, covers about 14 acres and is 90 feet deep, so it’s not quite bottomless. It is the only one in which swimming and paddleboarding is permitted, said Mira O’Connell, ranger supervisor, although cliff jumping is not.

Numerous RV and tent camp sites are set around Lea Lake, which is the only one of the lakes with a runoff. That runoff has created a small wetlands area that is home to numerous flying creatures like dragonflies, egrets and barn swallows.

Because there are several protected fish species in Lea Lake, fishing is not permitted, but it is allowed in smaller Pasture Lake and the Devil’s Inkwell. The latter is stocked with trout in October to be ready for winter fishing season that starts in November, O’Connell said.

Several hiking trails meander through the park, including the 3-mile Skidmark loop that is popular with mountain bikes.

Brantley Lake State Park

Brantley Lake State Park, formed with the damming of the Pecos River, features New Mexico’s most southern lake. (Courtesy of Robert Kasuboski)

Just north of Carlsbad, Brantley Lake on the Pecos River is the southernmost lake in the state. It has a surface area of 4,000 acres and is stocked with bass, walleye, catfish, bluegill and crappie. Motorized and non-motorized boating is allowed, as is water skiing, sailing and personal watercraft.

Stars fill the night sky at Brantley Lake State Park near Carlsbad.

It is a haven for migrating birds and it is not uncommon to see American White Pelicans and seagulls alight on its waters.

It’s also an area of cultural significance, with signs of habitation dating back 10,000 years. At least 200 archaeological sites have been recorded in the area.