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Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Located where the Chihuahuan Desert meets the Southern Plains, Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge is one of the more biologically significant wetland areas of the Pecos River watershed system. Established in 1937 to provide wintering habitat for migratory birds, the refuge plays a crucial role in the conservation of wetlands in the desert Southwest.

Straddling the Pecos River, Bitter Lake NWR is truly a jewel, a wetland oasis inhabitated by a diverse abundance of wildlife species. The refuge protects and provides habitat for some of New Mexico’s most rare and unusual creatures such as the least shrew, Noels’ amphipod, least tern and Roswell spring snail.


The Refuge lies within a significant ecological meeting place where the Chihuahuan Desert, short grass prairie, Pecos River and the Roswell artesian basin come together. The blending together of these different ecological conditions has created some unusual biological situations. For example, organisms associated with wetlands often interact with desert creatures.

Attracted to the area by its abundant water supply at least 357 species of birds have been observed on the refuge. At least 59 species of mammals, over 50 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 24 fish species have been documented on the refuge.

Refuge wetlands provide habitat for thousands of migrating lesser sandhill cranes, Ross and snow geese and about twenty duck species such as pintails, mallards, canvasback, gadwall,shovelers and three species of teal.


Four short (less than 0.5 miles each) and two longer (1.5 – 4 miles) hiking trails are available adjacent to the wildlife drive or Refuge headquarters. Also the entire north tract (12,160 acres) of the refuge, including the wilderness area, is open to hiking and horseback riding.