Originally designated the Carlsbad Bird Refuge in 1935, Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge first appears as a desolate, barren landscape dotted by occasional stumps, sparse grasses and shrubs. Upon closer examination the various geologic features, bubbling springs and unique desert wildlife make the refuge a true oasis.

Visit Us

National wildlife refuges offer us all a chance to unplug from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with our natural surroundings. Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge is truly an oasis in the desert. Watch in awe of more than 26,000 sandhill cranes during fall migration or one of more than 100 species of dragonflies and damselflies dancing in the air.  

Location and Contact Information

      About Us

      Located where the Chihuahuan Desert meets the Southern Plains in southeast New Mexico, Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most biologically significant wetland areas of the Pecos River watershed system. Established in 1937 to provide wintering habitat for migratory birds, the 24,563-acre refuge plays a crucial role in the conservation of wetlands in the southwestern desert. The unusually diverse wetlands combined with its gypsum karst topography support a variety of plant and animal communities that thrive on the refuge. The native grasslands, vegetated sand dunes, brushy bottomlands, and red-rimmed plateaus provide a sharp contrast to the wetlands of Bitter Lake. Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge is an oasis in the desert.  

      What We Do

      The National Wildlife Refuge System is a series of lands and waters owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the refuge system. It drives everything we do from the purpose a refuge is established, to the recreational activities offered there, to the resource management tools we use. Selecting the right tools helps us ensure the survival of the nation’s wildlife resources and conserving the natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations.

      Our Species

      Bitter Lake is an ecological crossroad where the Chihuahuan Desert meets short grass prairie, the Pecos River, and the Roswell Artesian Basin. The blending of these different ecological conditions has created some unusual biological conditions. Here you will find wetland-dependent species interacting with desert creatures.