Despite their name, the bodies of water in New Mexico’s Bottomless Lake State Park are neither bottomless nor lakes. The park is home to nine sinkhole-formed lakes, otherwise known as cenotes. These cenotes were made from limestone caves that eventually collapsed due to erosion from the Pecos River leaving what we see today. While they do have bottoms, they are located far beneath the surface—the deepest comes in at about 90 feet.
The name “Bottomless Lakes” comes from a time in the Wild West when a group of cowboys came across the cenotes and wanted to see how far down they went. They tied many pieces of rope together to see how long it would take to reach the bottom. Eventually, they gave up without ever touching the floor and said that there was no bottom at all.
The nine lakes consist of Lazy Lagoon (90 feet/27.4 meters), Cottonwood Lake (27 feet/8.2 meters), Mirror Lake North (33 feet/10 meters), Mirror Lake South (43 feet/13.1 meters), Devil’s Inkwell (28 feet/8.5 meters), Figure Eight Lake North (37 feet/11.2 meters), Figure Eight Lake South (22 feet/6.7 meters), Pasture Lake (18 feet/5.5 meters), and Lea Lake (90 feet/27.4). Today these lakes are home to four endangered species that include the Pecos Pupfish, the Rainwater Killifish, the Cricket Frog, and the Eastern Barking Frog. Another lake, Dimmit Lake, Is not a part of the state park but is within the area.
Local legends state that objects that have gone missing in the Bottomless Lakes later washed up in Carlsbad Caverns. Some claim that strong underwater currents are known to suck up swimmers and never be seen again. Others also claim that a giant turtle monster swims along the bottom of the lakes.
Know Before You Go
You can visit any of the nine lakes but the only one that allows swimming is Lea Lake. Some of the other lakes are surrounded by cliffs and therefore may require a hike to get to them. Campgrounds are also available from mid-May through Labor Day and cost $5.