7 Things You Didn’t Know About Carlsbad, New Mexico
Lake with boat dock in Carlsbad, New Mexico.

Even if you think you know the ins and outs of Carlsbad, New Mexico, near Carlsbad Caverns, there might be things about this city in the Southeast Corner of the state that are new to you.

PECOS RIVER — UNIQUE IN CROSSING ITS OWN PATH

The Pecos River, which has been instrumental in agriculture and ranching for more than a century and a half, serves as a hub for an array of outdoor activities. The river is also unique in that it’s the only river known to loop back on itself. What’s the backstory? In 1890, local farmers and cattle ranchers erected a timber flume to transfer water across a considerable elevation to water their fields. Repeated storm damage led to its reconstruction in concrete by 1903. This was, at the time, the largest concrete structure in the world — it even secured a place in Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

ALKALINE WATERS REVEAL REGION’S HIDDEN TREASURES

Although the Pecos River water has an alkaline quality, it’s still suitable for drinking and agricultural use. Spanning most of its 900-mile course from the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Santa Fe until it joins the Rio Grande, the river is characteristically narrow, not too deep, and contains salt. This salinity is traced back to the sediment of the bygone Permian Sea that once dominated the area.

FIRST INSTANCE OF POTASH MINING IN THE U.S.

One of the salts in the mix is potassium, specifically in the form of potash. Discovered in 1925 by explorers in Eddy County, it marked the first finding of potash in the U.S. The discovery significantly bolstered both the fertilizer sector and local agriculture in Carlsbad. Although its economic impact peaked in the 1960s, mining activities persist today. Over the years, the area has also benefited from sectors like oil and gas production, nuclear materials handling, manufacturing, tourism, and farming.

Carlsbad history Six unknown IMCC miners beside a carload of potash
Six unknown IMCC miners stand beside the railroad box car with the 100,000th carload of potash shipped from IMCC. Photo circa 1960. From Bob Nymeyer Photo Collection; Photographer Bob Nymeyer. Photo courtesy Southeastern New Mexico Historical Society.

FROM CHARLES EDDY TO TODAY

The city’s founder, cattle rancher Charles Eddy, established the town in 1888. It underwent a name change to Carlsbad in 1899, mainly because Eddy unearthed mineral springs with therapeutic traits resembling those of the renowned European health resort, Karlsbad, in what’s now the Czech Republic. The presence of these mineral springs enhanced the town’s appeal, which grew substantial enough to achieve city status by 1918.

BRANDED AS THE “PECOS GEM”

Although the city self-identifies as a small-scale urban area, its population stands as the 10th largest in New Mexico. That’s noteworthy, especially when factoring in the 500 other incorporated cities within the state.

Airplane at Carlsbad airport
Fly in or out of the Carlsbad Airport.

JUST A STONE’S THROW FROM THE MAIN ROUTE

While El Paso, Texas, is the closest significant city 140 miles to the west, travelers can catch flights from Carlsbad to Albuquerque and Dallas-Fort Worth. Starting November 2023, flights will shift to Phoenix instead of Dallas-Fort Worth for those looking to link to other destinations.

CARLSBAD AS A RETIREMENT DESTINATION?

Famed for its iconic caverns, the area is a high-traffic tourist spot, but is it a suitable place for retirement? For many, the answer is yes. Over 15 percent of the city’s residents are 65 and older. If a mid-sized college town appeals to you more than a sprawling city, you’ll discover an engaged retirement community here. The town offers two centers for seniors, multiple volunteer options, and a wealth of outdoor leisure activities such as golf, hikes, angling, skiing, and water sports. Southeast New Mexico College in Carlsbad is also an option for those interested in lifelong learning.

CLIMATE CONCERNS? NOT HERE

Don’t let the “desert” label fool you; Southeastern New Mexico experiences four unique seasons, usually without the hindrances of snowfall, freezing temperatures, or downpours. The weather remains moderate throughout the year, boasting nearly 350 sun-filled days. The ideal periods for a visit? Mid-April to early June, before the summer heat kicks in, and from late September through to Thanksgiving.

If you’re in town just to take in the sights, you’re in for a treat. Go here to learn more.

The more you delve into what Carlsbad offers the more you may find yourself contemplating making it your permanent home.

Read about 12 fun things to do after visiting the Carlsbad Caverns here.

This story sponsored by the CITY OF CARLSBAD

City of Garlsbad Logo

This article was posted by Julia Osgood

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