Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge: Salt Creek Wilderness

Today I headed up to Roswell again to see if I could find more of the water-filled sinkholes of the North Unit of Bitter Lake NWR. Unlike last trip, I spent almost the entire time hiking in the wilderness. I also came better prepared for finding the sinkholes. I bought a GPS unit off Amazon.
GPS Unit
I used Google maps to find the sinkholes and added the GPS coordinates to my new GPS unit to better find them.

I parked my car off US 70, just like last week and followed the road that forms the east boundary of the wilderness. I used the trail I found last visit to head into the wilderness and turned the GPS unit on to find the first sinkhole I had logged. My GPS unit led me right to the sinkhole, but it turned out to be dry. I knew when looking at the sink on Google maps that it might be dry and so I wasn't too disappointed. In fact, I was quite happy that everything seemed to be going according to plan.

Nest I went to the coordinates for a sinkhole called the Inkpot. I was led across the shrubby desert plains into some red soils and rocks. I was noticing how many dead centipedes were scattered around
Dead Centipede
when it then appeared: the Inkpot.
The Inkpot
It reminded me of the sinkholes that you might find at nearby Bottomless Lakes State Park. I rested there for a bit and ate a snack before setting off again for my next sinkhole. The next one turned out to be very small with just a little bit of water inside.
Small Sinkhole
Still, my trek had brought me close to an interesting red bluff with a few clay badlands formations at the bottom. As I headed towards the bluff to investigate I saw something that completely caught me off-guard: a person up on the bluff.
Man on Bluff
It appeared to be a man out hunting. He was probably annoyed at me for scaring the game. Oh well. I ran across another dry sinkhole as I neared the bluff.
Dry Sinkhole
Eric and Badlands

 From the bluff I headed to my next sinkhole, actually a pair of two sinkholes very close to each other. The first was wide with water close to the top.
Eric and Sinkhole
The second was much deeper.
Both were interesting. After the twin sinks, it was time to start heading back towards the car. I still had one more sinkhole to investigate though. It was a long hike to the last sink. The walk traversed through large areas of dead dry brush. With just one spark the whole area would be ablaze. Eventually I reached the final sinkhole. It turned out to be the widest of the bunch.
Big Sinkhole
A waterfowl swam around inside, possibly an Eared Grebe.
From the last sinkhole I followed the mostly dry Salt Creek for a bit. There were lots of pieces of bone and shells embedded in the banks of the creek.
Bones and Shells
Eventually I headed out of the creek bed and moved across the shrubs and grasses to the road and my car.  


Anonymous said...

Interesting, Eric! This is the most info I've ever seen on the Salt Creek Wilderness. Those wet sinkholes are pretty cool, especially the Inkpot, makes me want to check out the area some day.

Ben said...

You'll be glad you picked up your GPS. They can unlock a lot of cool places that otherwise are impossible to give directions to.