Even if you think you know everything there is to know about Carlsbad, New Mexico, near Carlsbad Caverns, you might be surprised to learn some little known facts about this city in the Southeast Corner of the state.
Pecos River — Distinct in Looping Back on Itself
The Pecos River crosses itself, the only river known to do so. What’s the tale behind this? In the 1890s, community ranchers and farmers engineered a flume made of wood to funnel water over an elevated region to irrigate crops. However, frequent weather extremes caused so much damage that it rebuilt in concrete in 1903. At that period, it became the planet’s largest concrete structure and was even featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
Minerally-Rich Waters Lead to a New Industry
While the Pecos River’s water is alkaline, it’s still fit for drinking and irrigation. Throughout most of its near 900-mile stretch originating from the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains close to Santa Fe until its juncture with the Rio Grande, the waterway is fairly narrow, shallow, and laced with salt. This salinity has its roots in the sediment from the prehistoric Permian Sea that previously covered the area.
Contained among the various salts is potash, specifically in the form of potassium. In 1925, this resource was first unearthed in Eddy County, marking the debut of potash discovery on U.S. soil. This momentous find gave a significant boost to both the fertilizer business and agricultural activities in Carlsbad. Although its peak influence on the local economy only until the 1960s, extraction continues presently. Besides this, Carlsbad’s economic landscape has been augmented by activities in oil and gas, nuclear resource management, industrial manufacturing, tourism, and local farming.
A photo from around 1960 shows six unidentified IMCC miners standing next to a rail car that’s carrying the 100,000th batch of potash from IMCC. From the Bob Nymeyer Photo Collection; captured by Bob Nymeyer. Image courtesy of the Southeastern New Mexico Historical Society.
Carlsbad is home to an array of exciting attractions that make your visit to Guadalupe Mountains National Park truly remarkable.
Initially founded by Charles Eddy, a cattle rancher, in 1888, the town underwent a transformation when it was renamed Carlsbad in 1899. This shift occurred chiefly because Eddy stumbled upon mineral springs with curative properties similar to the renowned European spa, Karlsbad, located in the Czech Republic. This discovery further contributed to the town’s popularity, helping it earn city status in 1918.
While Carlsbad may categorize itself as a smaller municipality, it actually ranks as the 10th largest city by population in New Mexico. This is notable, when you consider that the state is home to 500 other legally incorporated towns.
Even though El Paso, Texas serves as the closest major city at a distance of 140 miles west, scheduled flights are offered from Carlsbad to Albuquerque and Dallas-Fort Worth. Come November 2023, the aerial route will shift its focus to Phoenix instead of Dallas-Fort Worth, opening up new travel gateways.
The city’s renowned caverns make Carlsbad a magnet for tourists, but is it also a viable location for retirement? Quite a few seem to think so: more than 15% of the local population is over the age of 65. If you’re more inclined towards a smaller academic town as opposed to a sprawling urban center, you’ll discover a dynamic senior community in Carlsbad. Among the amenities are two centers aimed at seniors, diverse volunteer roles, and a plethora of outdoor pursuits like golfing, hiking, angling, skiing, and aquatic activities. Those interested in ongoing education have the option of continuing education courses at Southeast New Mexico College in Carlsbad.
Contrary to its ‘desert’ classification, Carlsbad enjoys a balanced climate across its four distinct seasons. Rarely plagued by snow, bone-chilling temperatures, or drenching rains, the city boasts approximately 350 days of sun annually. Optimum times for a trip? Consider mid-April to early June before summer temperatures soar, or late September through to Thanksgiving.
So, if you’re merely looking to explore what the city has to offer, you won’t be disappointed. The deeper you dig into Carlsbad’s hidden aspects, the more you may find it an appealing place for a long-term stay or even settling down. Learn more about Carlsbad here.
Read about 12 fun things to do after visiting the Carlsbad Caverns here.