U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service logo A Unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System
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Bitter Lake
National Wildlife Refuge

4200 E. Pine Lodge Road
Roswell, NM   88201
E-mail: Floyd_Truetken@fws.gov
Phone Number: 575-622-6755
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
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Continued . . .

Antonio de Espejo's fruitless quest for wealth in the Pecos River Valley in 1582 would have been successful if he had measured richness in terms of species diversity.

Likewise, ranchers in the late 1800s who pronounced the alkaline waters "bitter" had no idea those same waters support some of the most strange and wonderful life forms found on our planet.

After the Civil War, the Pecos Valley spelled riches for only one reason - grasses to support huge cattle drives. As many as 300,000 head of cattle crossed the valley between 1866 and 1869 on their way from Roswell to Colorado. Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving were the first to trail cattle here in 1866. John Chisum, laid claim to and controlled the entire valley a few years later. He is responsible for the largest single cattle drive in New Mexico at 110,000 strong.

By 1900, poor grazing practices and falling beef prices marked the end of the cattle era. After homesteading fervor was defeated by drought years, the wild inhabitants drew the attention of Congress. In 1937, Bitter Lake joined the National Wildlife Refuge System to protect the winter home of sandhill cranes and waterfowl.

The Civilian Conservation Corps came to Bitter Lake NWR at its inception. They built canals, impoundments, buildings, and other facilities on the refuge. Many of these facilities are still in use by the Refuge.

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