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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
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Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Located where the Chihuahuan Desert meets the southern plains, Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge provides habitat for some of the rarest creatures in New Mexico. Established in 1937 to provide habitat for thousands of migrating sandhill cranes and waterfowl, the 24,536 acre Refuge is popular for its diverse flora and fauna.

Straddling the Pecos River, the Refuge consists of an assortment of water habitats surrounded by a harsh, dry environment. The waters support unique wildlife, such as the Pecos pupfish, Roswell spring snail, green throat darter, Mexican tetra, and Noel's amphipod, along with approximately 65 species of dragonflies.

Native grasslands, sand dunes, brushy bottomlands, and red-rimmed plateaus provide a sharp contrast to the wetland habitats of the Refuge. Roadrunners, scaled quail, and horned lizards are commonly seen in these drier areas.

Getting There . . .
Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge is located about 10 miles northeast of Roswell, in Chaves County, New Mexico. From Roswell (south side), take US 380 (Second Street) east about three miles to Red Bridge Road. Follow Red Bridge Road north to Pine Lodge Road and travel east to the Refuge entrance gate. From the north side of Roswell, take US 285 (Main Street) north to Pine Lodge Road. Take Pine Lodge east about 6 miles to the Refuge entrance.

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Wildlife and Habitat

This 24,536-acre national wildlife refuge is located in Roswell, New Mexico. Although UFO sightings may have helped Roswell become a house-hold name, nearby Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge supports a wide variety of creatures that are native to Earth.

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The Middle Pecos River and the plains of eastern New Mexico are well know for evidence of the oldest human inhabitants in the Americas. Know by archeologists as the "Clovis" and "Folsum" culture, these early hunters followed herds of large, now extinct, animals who roamed the land at the end of the last glacial era. Fossils of these early animals have been found on Bitter Lake. Thousands of years later, but still during prehistoric times, small semi-permanent villages of farmers dotted the landscape. Their painted pottery and tools have been found here. Nomadic bands of Mescalero Apache and Comanche people roamed the region from the 1700s or earlier, but left little evidence of their passing.

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Management Activities
Many management techniques are used at Bitter Lake NWR.

Native trees such as willows and cottonwoods are scarce on the landscape these days. Salt Cedar, once used to stop erosion, has invaded many areas on the refuge. Refuge staff are using mechanical methods to remove this exotic plant. Replanting willows and cottonwoods are underway.

Fire management is also important. Controlled burns allow Service staff to rejuvenate the vegetation and control some exotic plant species.

Cooperative farmers plant crops for wildlife to utilize. Wintering birds visit the southern portion of the Refuge.

Water manipulation is another important management tool utilized at Bitter Lake NWR. Impoundments are flooded to provide overwintering ducks and shorebirds with necessary food and habitat. For the most part, manageable refuge lakes are filled to capacity during the fall and winter to provide roosting and feeding areas for migratory waterfowl. Many of the lakes are left low during hot summer months when evaporation is highest. Exposing mudflats during spring, summer, and early fall provides some of the most important feeding area in the state for abundant shorebirds which absolutely require these shallow areas to forage in. The salt flats exposed during spring and summer also provide an important nesting area for snowy plovers, avocets, and least terns. Wetlands are occasionally flooded for short periods to irrigate vegetation and provide a supply of food available for migratory birds as they arrive in the fall.