Living Desert State Park
Hwy 285 NW of Carlsbad

Carlsbad, NM

February 25, 2001

Carlsbad, New Mexico, had a number of interesting things to do. While most people come to Carlsbad for the caves, there are any number of other things to interest the whole family. One of these is the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park. Located northwest of the city it offers a trip into the wilds of New Mexico, and particularly the Chihuahuan Desert. You can walk a 1.3 mile trail that meanders through the various habitats that make up the Chihuahuan Desert, from the sand hills found along the nearby Pecos River to the gypsum rock formations of the desert uplands, and on through a dry desert stream bed to the mountainous pinon-juniper zone. Be sure and allow a minimum of 1.5 hours.  As usual we started out at the visitors center. We paid our entrance fee and gathered what literature they had available. The first section we went to was the aviary. They had a number of birds that were "at large". Some of the other birds that were in cages were a golden eagles, broad-winged hawk, owls, and roadrunners. Bob has been lucky enough to see Roadrunners out in the wild but this was my first up close look at one. Next we wandered through the gypsum hills and desert uplands area. Then we went past an arroyo that was supposed to have a family of Javelinas, but unfortunately we weren't able to see these elusive creatures. A Javelina is a type of pig that is seen in the wild in several places in New Mexico. They have a nocturnal exhibit where we met up with one of their volunteers, Glen Netherton. Glen was gracious enough to let us take his picture with me next to a large exhibit of a bat. (Of course we had to get "Battie's" permission to take his picture) Glen was LAURA - BATTIE - GLENvery knowledgeable about all of the park and was very enthusiastic about his job at the park. He told us that on nights with full moons they have programs that allow people to visit the park at night to see some of the nocturnal creatures out-and-about. 
After we left the nocturnal house we were able to see some of the endangered Mexican wolves in a very natural habitat. In addition to wildlife, the park is alive with plants of the Chihuahuan Desert, those hardy species that have evolved methods of enduring extreme heat and cold, sandy soil, and a decided lack of moisture. These include the tall, spindly ocotillo, mesquite, sotol, lechuguilla, and sagebrush. An area I particularly enjoyed was the Prairie Dog area or town. I could sitGUARD DOG ON BREAK and watch these little guys (and gals, of course) for hours. The entire area is fenced in to keep visitors from wandering into the middle of the area. As we approached we saw several Prairie Dogs standing on their hind feet looking back and forth in all directions. They kind of resembled a lookout for a robbery. When they heard or saw someone approaching they sent out a signal to all the others which was picked up by the next "sentry" and passed along. While they didn't seem to hide at our approach it was very clear that they knew we were there. We watched what appeared to be two "youngsters" tussling with each other. It appeared to be just juvenile play-fighting, but finally one of the nearby adults got tired of being run over by these two and stopped their play by several well-chosen remarks. But soon they were out again in another area irritating some other adults. Oh well, guess kids will be kids. We finally got to the atrium that contained succulents of the world. I have never seen so many different kinds of cactus in one place. Some of them actually looked soft and you had to restrain your impulse to reach out and see if that was so. Some of the ones that appear soft are the worst to touch because they have extremely fine spines that will get into your flesh and it is almost impossible to see them to get them out. OUCH! You may wonder how I came to possess this particular bit of knowledge. Well, believe me I have this bit of knowledge from personal experience. As we got back to the visitors center we were privy to a performance of American Performance Poetry by a gentleman by the name of Larry Goodell. Mr. Goodell did vignettes of regional, nature, New Age and cowboy styles of poetry. He was fascinating. I have never seen anyone use their entire body in reciting poetry. But that is exactly what Mr. Goodell did. He really threw himself into it. As a result his audience, adults and children alike, were mesmerized by his recitations. The sun was beginning to set as we pulled out of the driveway of the Park towards our campground. It was a great day and once again we had added more information to our knowledge of the southwest.

If you'd like to check out information on the park take a look at their website at:

Good Luck! Have Fun! and Stay Safe!