Tag Archives: Percha Dam State Park

Brantley Lake State Park

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After a long, hot day in the city of Carlsbad, NM, The Man said he really needed a shower.

Isn’t there a state park around here? he asked.

I got on FreeCampsites.net and had a look. Although staying at state parks isn’t free, it’s often cheap, so parks with campgrounds are sometimes listed on the Free Campsites website. The closest state park that showed up in the search engine was at Brantley Lake.

I don’t remember why we didn’t look for a community or rec center with a swimming pool, as those are often good places to shower for a couple of bucks. In any case, we were soon making the 20-mile drive to the state park.

When we pulled up to the entrance to the park, I read the information board, trying to figure out where we should go. It looked like the price for primitive camping was $8 and the price for developed camping was $14. I was sure the Free Campsites page said the cost of camping in the developed area was $10 Where was the $10 option?

While I was trying to figure things out, a truck pulled over behind us. The Man backed out of its way, but it didn’t go around us and into the park as we’d expected. The truck had some sort of official looking emblem on the door, and the driver looked at me expectantly.

Go talk to him, The Man urged.

Turns out, the man in the truck was the camp host at Limestone Campground, the park’s developed area.

I confirmed that the primitive camping area had no showers. There aren’t even porta-potties down there, the camp host said. I realized later I should have asked if we were allowed to camp in the primitive area but take showers in the developed campground, but it didn’t cross my mind at the time.

At other New Mexico state parks I’ve been to (Caballo Lake, Elephant Butte Lake), primitive camping costs $8, a developed campsite with no electricity costs $10, and a campsite with electricity costs $14. I was confused when I got to Limestone Campground in Brantley Lake State Park because I couldn’t find the $10 non-electric campsites. It finally dawned on me that there was no $10 option there because all sites offered electricity. As I thought more about New Mexico state parks where I’ve stayed before, I remembered Percha Dam campground offered no primitive camping. All sites at that campground were considered “developed,” and I had to pay $10 per night when I stayed there. I learned a lesson at Brantley Lake: Every state park in New Mexico is different, and I need to do a bit more research than FreeCampsites.net to find out if a particular park offers the kind of camping I want.

Brantley Lake is beautiful and large. According to http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us/spd/brantleylakestatepark.html, it is the southernmost lake in New Mexico. Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brantley_Lake_State_Park) says the lake is

a man-made reservoir created when Brantley Dam was built across the Pecos River in the 1980s… It has a surface area of approximately 4,000 acres (16 km2), but that varies due to the inconsistent flow of the Pecos River and the arid climate in which the lake is located.

Brantley Lake is beautiful and large. This photo shows only a small portion of it.

The Limestone Campground is divided into two sections: one has sites that can be reserved and the other has sites that are nonreservable. We pulled into the section for folks without reservations and found several empty sites to choose from. We were visiting on a Thursday in early May, and there was plenty of room. However, if I wanted to stay at Limestone Campground on a summer weekend and I hadn’t reserved a spot, I would be sure to arrive early in the day to secure a site.

Apparently, campsites have a bar-b-que grill too. I guess I didn’t notice the one on our site.

Each site in the nonreserveable part of the campground has a flat area for parking a camper and/or a vehicle and a covered picnic table. Each site has an electrical box too, but since we didn’t need to plug in anything, we didn’t even look at the box. We took a spot next to a trail leading to the lake, but we were too tired to walk down there.

Like the rest of the campground, the women’s restroom/shower house was very clean. A woman was leaving the shower house as I arrived, and no one else came in, so I had the place to myself. I had a couple beefs about the shower, complaints I’ve also had at the other two state parks in New Mexico (Percha Dam and Elephant Butte Lake) where I’ve showered.

First, I had to press a button to start the water flow. The water ran a few minutes (3? 5?) then shut off automatically. I understand managers of state parks wanting showers to shut off automatically to cut down on pranksters or just plain forgetful people leaving the water running and flooding the place or wasting resources. However, having the water shut off during my shower harshes my mellow. Certainly, it’s not a huge problem, as I can simply reach out and push the button again, but I’d prefer a continuous water flow while I’m washing up.

The trail leading to the lake,

The second complaint is more difficult for me to shrug off. The water in New Mexico state park showers never gets hot. Yes, the water is warm. Yes, a warm shower is better (to me) than a cold one. Yes, hot water uses precious resources and opens the park to a lawsuit if someone scalds him or herself. I understand all these factors, but I love me a hot hot shower, and I can’t seem to get one at a New Mexico state park.

Of course, I was happy to get clean, even if I got a little chilly in the process. To this van dweller, a shower is always a luxury. However, I’d rather take a hot shower for $3 at a rec center instead of my paying my half of $14 or even $10 to take a warm shower at a state park.

I took all the photos in this post.

 

 

Where to Stay in T or C

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I’ve been writing about Truth or Consequences, NM in the last few days, and several people have told me they now have T or C on their list of places to visit. It would hardly be fair to get folks excited about visiting the town and not tell them where they can stay.

The first time I visited T or C, I had the good fortune to spend a week in a motel. I stayed at the Rocket Inn (605 N Date Street), a small motor court with only nine rooms for rent. Built in 1948, and originally called the Red Haven Motel, the entire place has been restored. According to the website, the

fully modernized King Deluxe and Double Queen rooms…include fridge, microwave, WIFI and HDTV/basic cable. [The property is] family run, dog-friendly and walking distance to Main Street.

I chose the Rocket Inn because I could walk from my room to downtown where I was able to sample the wonderful hot springs bathhouses. Everyone working at the Rocket Inn, from the owners to the housekeepers, were exceedingly nice to me and made sure I had everything I wanted and needed. The rooms were impeccably clean, and I felt perfectly safe there.

SDC10011The third time I visited Truth or Consequences, I stayed at the Artesian Bath House and RV Park (at 312 Marr Street) for two months. Nightly and weekly rates at the Artesian were reasonable, but the monthly rate was a fantastic deal.

According to the business’s Facebook page,

The Artesian Bath House opened for business June, 1930. For over 33 years the Martin’s [sic] have owned, operated, and maintained their commercial hot springs.

The Artesian is great for vandwellers, as there  are restrooms on-site, and one can take a hot bath if one wants to clean up.

I have also had great success stealth parking and boondocking in the town of Truth or Consequences. I’m not sure if I’m actually as stealthy as I like to think I am or if no one in T or C cares about who’s sleeping in a vehicle in a residential area, but when I left in December of 2015, I’d never been bothered during my nights in the van. Lots of folks park overnight in the parking lot of the T or C Wal-Mart. I have seen everything from luxury Class A’s to old-school motorhomes held together with duct tape and prayer to stealth vans parked in that lot. On some nights I’ve counted a dozen vehicles parked there, then counted them all again in the morning as I walked toward the doors of the store. Sometimes I call that parking lot the Wal-Mart RV park.

For folks who want to get out of town and into nature, there’s plenty of that in the area too.

Paseo del Rio Campground SignTruth or Consequences is very close to Elephant Butte dam and Elephant Butte State Park. According to Wikipedia,

Elephant Butte Dam…is a concrete gravity dam on the Rio Grande river near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The dam impounds Elephant Butte Reservoir, which is used for both recreation and agriculture. The construction of the dam has reduced the flow of the Rio Grande to a small stream, with high releases occurring only during the summer irrigation season, or during years of exceptionally heavy snow melt.

Elephant Butte Dam

Elephant Butte Dam is the large concrete structure in the middle of this photo.

The Paseo del Rio Recreation Area is part of Elephant Butte State Park. The Paseo del Rio includes a campground I stayed at for a couple of nights during my first visit to the area.

When I was there, the campground did not offer water, sewage, or electrical hookups, but each campsite had a fire ring and picnic table covered by a ramada. There were flush toilets and sinks with running water on one end of the campground, near the day-use parking lot, and portable toilets at the other end. I believe the camping fee was $10 per night.

The Rio Grande and Mountain

This photo shows the Rio Grande as it looked from the trail that ran through the campground.

A 3/4 mile trail with “interpretive signage of historic interest” ran through the campground and along the Rio Grande, and there was a historic fish hatchery in the recreation area.

I found the campground peaceful. There wasn’t much traffic at night on the road closest to the campground, so there wasn’t much disruptive automotive noise.

Fish Hatchery Lake

This photo shows one of the fish hatchery lakes. The water drew birds, so there was a lot of avian life in the area.

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This photo shows Caballo Lake, with the Caballo Mountains beyond it.

I also spent a couple of nights at the Percha Flats camping area at Caballo Lake State Park. Percha Flats was a primitive camping area with no designated campsites, no running water, no electricity, and no hookups of any kind. When I visited, there was a pit toilet and a dumpster near the entrance to the camping area. The camping fee was $8 per night. There were no designated hiking trails in the area where I stayed, but I did take some nice walks along the edge of the lake.

The final campground I stayed in near Truth or Consequences was in Percha Dam State Park. SDC10028The campground had many developed campsites, although mine only had a picnic table. My site had no ramada, and no hookups, although there may have been a water spigot there. (I can’t remember.) Many of the sites had electrical hookups, but I decided not to splurge on that. The campground also had flush toilets, sinks with running water, and hot showers that didn’t cost extra to use. I did enjoy a nice hot shower during my stay.

My last tip is a boondocking spot about 3o miles away from Truth or Consequences. Last time I was there, the cute little town of Hillsboro (population 124) allowed folks to park overnight in the community’s tiny park across the street from the Black Range Museum. There were a couple of pit toilets in the park, as well as a few informational placards, and campfires were not allowed. I think this spot would be a good place to spend the night on a trip between T or C and Silver City.

So there you have it. I’ve offered up several choices of places to stay as you start your adventures in Truth or Consequences and the surrounding area.

I took all of the photos in this post.