Day trips: Brantley Lake State Park offers spring getaway

Compiled by William Thompson

Brantley Lake State Park, located between Artesia and Carlsbad, has a 2,500-acre lake stocked with black bass, bluegill, crappie and catfish. The park’s manager, Shane Phipps, said officials have recently noticed another species.

“The game and fish people were out here and netted some nice pound to pound-and-a-half white bass,” Phipps said. “Spring is a great time to come to the park. It’s right before the busy season, and there are a lot of migratory birds passing through. The desert plants are starting to bloom and the climate is just right.”

Phipps said a wildlife “track” trail at the park features concrete slabs in the ground with actual tracks of Chihuahuan Desert animals, the same animals that can be spotted inside the park.

“There’s a brochure that goes along with the trail, so visitors can learn about each animal,” Phipps said. “Some animals that people often see are black-tailed jackrabbits and mule deer. We also see quite a few quail and New Mexico’s state bird, the roadrunner.”
Boaters come year-round to the park.

Take U.S. 70 west out of Portales and head toward Roswell. Just before Roswell take U.S. 285 south. Continue down U.S. 285 south to Eddy County Road 30 about 12 miles north of Carlsbad. Follow Eddy County Road 30, about 4.5 miles to the park entrance.

It’s a journey of a little more than three hours.

Brantley Lake was created in 1988 by completion of a four-mile-long (and 100-foot-high) dam across the Pecos River. Phipps said the dam can be viewed from a variety of perspectives inside the park.

The park is open year-round. Primitive camping down by the lake costs $8 per vehicle per night and modern camping (with electricity and water) is available for $14 per night per vehicle. The day-use fee is $5 per vehicle. Call 457-2384 for more information.

Believe it or not, a town lies buried beneath Brantley Lake. The town of Seven Rivers was a booming town of 300 in the 1880s. Billy the Kid and John Chisum hung their hats in town. At its height, the town had a post office, two stores, a hotel, a school and two saloons.
The park’s visitor center has an exhibit on Seven Rivers with some artifacts uncovered by archaeologists.