Roswell may be best-known for an event that still resonates around the world more than 65 years after some kind of object crashed on a ranch outside the city in southeastern New Mexico. But, there are plenty of earthly attractions to delight the visitor.
For outdoor enthusiasts, Roswell and the surrounding areas is bustling with recreation opportunities.
The Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, 4065 Bitter Lakes Road, is an excellent spot for bird watchers and photographers to get their fix, says Floyd Truetken, refuge manager.
Numerous marshes provide a year-round bird haven, he says, including shore birds like the American white pelican.
Among a trail system through the area, several bird watching and photography blinds provide a hidden site for views, Truetken says. An auto tour circles the marshes and two bluffs provide an overview.
“They’re really cool,” he says. “People like to go up there at sunset or real early in the morning for sunrise. It’s really pretty with all the brids flying around.”
The refuge is surrounded by the 9,000-acre Salt Creek Wilderness Area in which hikers and horse riders can escape.
“You get in the center of that and you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere,” Truetken says. “And that’s challenging in this part of New Mexico because we don’t have vast public lands like they do in the west and north.”
One caution, he says, is when it warms up, be wary of the prevalent rattlesnakes.
The Refuge and Wilderness area is open daily, while the visitor center is open 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays.
For information call 575-622-6755 or see friendsofbitterlake.com.
Parks and zoo
A half-hour’s drive southeast of Roswell, Bottomless Lakes State Park is a destination that attracts boaters, anglers, scuba divers and hikers, says Reneé Roach, Roswell director of marketing. There’s even some gleaming white gypsum sands areas. The 1,400-acre park has seven lakes surrounded by stunning red bluffs.
“We had our class reunion family day there and everybody had a blast,” Roach says. “People think that Roswell doesn’t have water but we do.”
The park is located on NM 409 and open 6 a.m.- 9 p.m. everyday. Call 575-624-6058 or see emnrd.state.nm.us/SPD/bottomlesslakesstatepark.html for information.
Roswell’s Spring River Park & Zoo, 1306 E. College Blvd. (575-624-6760), is one of the country’s free zoos, says director Elaine Mayfield. It’s home to about 200 animals representing 62 species housed in naturalistic enclosures. It’s open seven days a week, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., in the summer.
“It’s a very nice little zoo,” she says. “It’s not too big and not too little.”
It features mainly native species that come from areas ranging from river bottoms to mountain tops, Mayfield says.
One of the highlights, however, are the non-native lemurs, she says, because of the “Madagascar” movies.
The surrounding park is a child’s favorite with a miniature train and an antique carousel, each of which cost 25 cents to ride, Mayfield says.
Art and stars
For the culturally inquisitive, Roswell is home to the free Roswell Museum & Art Center and the accompanying Robert H. Goddard Planetarium.
The museum, 100 W. 11th St., features a collection of southwestern art that rivals those found in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, says Stephen Volmer, museum assistant director.
Pieces from notable artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Peter Hurd and Henriette Wyeth are among the highlights of the collection, he says.
“It’s a good representation from people from the greater Southwest,” Vollmer says.
The museum also includes significant artifacts from the colonial Spanish era, Native Americans and early Anglo pioneers, he says.
The site also includes a re-creation of Robert Goddard’s workshop as it was rebuilt at the museum. Goddard, the acknowledged father of modern rocketry, did much of his research in the area and the shop includes many of the tools and equipment that he used.
For information call 575-624-6744 or see roswellmuseum.org.
The planetarium, also free, includes regular star shows and serves as a resource for the local schools, Vollmer says.
“It’s all related to curiosity and expanding frontiers,” Vollmer says. “We’re very fortunate. It’s all about the ability to imagine and expand horizons.”
Call 575-624-6744, ext. 26, for show times.
Finally, no trip to Roswell would be complete with dropping into the International UFO Museum & Research Center, Roach says.
There are exhibits covering the famed incident in the summer of 1947, movie sets from related documentaries and a research area for UFO enthusiasts, she says.
The museum at 114 N. Main St., also has lectures and events throughout the year. For information call 575-625-9495 or go to roswellufomuseum.com.
The annual Roswell UFO Festival is July 3-6 this year. For information, go to ufofestivalroswell.com.