Eddy County Guide
Last updated on Thursday, February 20, 2003
In 1903 when artesian wells were discovered, the town known as Stegman was renamed Artesia. Water spouted as high as twenty feet. Early settlers were attracted to this plentiful water supply and established an agricultural and farming community. Unfortunately the wells were allowed to flow unchecked and the water table dropped.
Now, however, in this city of 12,000, the water supply is continually replenished with runoff from the Sacramento Mountains about 90 miles to the west.
Originally Artesia was a part of John Chisum's ranching empire in the late 1870s. Today cattle and sheep ranching, alfalfa, cotton, chile and pecan farming are important staples of the economy. In addition, oil was discovered in 1924 and opened up the regional Permian Basin. The Navajo Refinery dominates the eastern side of U. S. Highway 285 as you enter the city.
Anyone who has visited or will visit Carlsbad Caverns will pass through the settlement of White’s City, New Mexico. It is at the crossroads of U. S. Highway 62/180 and NM Highway 7, the highway into Carlsbad Caverns. Named for Charlie White from Kentucky who homesteaded south of Carlsbad about 1927, it began with a small store and service station and has expanded to a tourist center. Ironically the young cowboy who is credited with discovering the Caverns was also named White, although probably no relation to the White’s City family.
Recently I wriggled my way, not into a cave, but into a goals-setting retreat of Carlsbad Caverns National Park staff - three long days trying to articulate the park’s mission, renew its vision, turn sweeping desires into measurable goals, tasks, and work assignments. We were 24, nearly a quarter of the park staff, including superintendent, division heads, rangers, maintenance men, administrative aides. We talked much about team building, but the underlying theme is how we balance the contradictory mandates of preserving the park’s fragile caves with that of encouraging tourist visitation.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park runs five guided off-trail tours. They are so different it’s hard to imagine they are in the same park. Spider Cave delivers an intimate caving experience, wriggling into the hidden underworld, coming face-to-face with earth’s inner secrets. Lower Cave is back stage at the opera.
Carlsbad was originally christened Eddy about 1888 with a bottle of champagne. Long before that, around 25,000 B.C., its occupants were representatives of Sandia Man. Other nomadic hunters, including the Apache, followed hunting buffalo. Spanish explorers were next until the conquest by the United States which resulted in the Territory of New Mexico about 1850.
These five off-trail tours take you off the beaten path. Plan time for them. They offer an intriguing glimpse into Carlsbad's world of caving.
Winter in Carlsbad isn't about snow, ice or cold. It's about warmth. The warmth of the holiday season. And families coming together. Carlsbad is alive with the ultimate celebration of the season - Christmas on the Pecos River.
Known as the Southeastern Gateway to the Land of Enchantment, the small town of Jal offers services for tourists passing through or for anyone wanting to call it home. Located 22 miles south of Eunice on New Mexico Highway 18 at the crossroads of New Mexico Highway 128, it is less than ten miles from the Texas border to the east. Kermit, Texas is 18 miles south.
Lovington became the county seat of Lea County when it was created from the eastern portions of Eddy and Chaves Counties in 1917. A man named Robert Florence Love, known by his middle name, was determined to establish a town where his homestead was located, the site of present-day Lovington. He filed for a post office permit under the name of Loving. However, it was denied as there was a settlement south of Carlsbad known as Loving. He changed the application name to Lovington, and the post office was established on September 12, 1908.
I’m flat on my belly inching through the crawl space into Spider Cave. My head lamp casts a shadowy glow into this twisting channel, but I can’t raise my head far enough to see where I’m going. The cave ceiling scrapes my back. The cave floor is rocky as a mountain stream, and jagged stones nip into my chest and thighs. I’m dragging myself - there’s not enough room to crawl - trying to follow the soles of the size ten boots ahead of me. The boots disappear around a corner.
The ideal visit to Carlsbad Caverns starts by hiking down the natural entrance: We plunge into the earth; light into darkness, summer heat into cool shadow. We're explorers, wending our way to the center of the earth. The air turns musty; water drips. We imagine the cave's first explorer, Jim White, descending by rope, home-made kerosene lantern in hand. We wonder how, without this trail, without these lights, he managed to find his way out safely.
What is a flume, you may ask? According to the dictionary, it is a narrow
gorge with a stream flowing through it, usually, or an artificial channel or
chute for a stream of water. The latter describes the Flume at
Carlsbad, New Mexico.
Irrigation was a necessity for the arid Southwest as it couldn't depend on
rainfall and snow for moisture to grow crops. For centuries Native Americans and
Hispanic peoples regularly watered small fields with canal networks, acequias
and brush diversion dams.
It's a desolate, barren landscape - one of chalky, alkaline soil, mesquite, prickly-pear cactus, wind, and sun - lots of sun. Engulfed on all sides by a semi-arid desert is the dusty little town of Jal, New Mexico, population 2,156. The natives there may raise an eyebrow, laugh, or frown if you mispronounce the name of their town, and they will definitely correct you. It isn't "Jall", nor "Jail". Some visitors to New Mexico, thinking that all "Js" are pronounced as a Spanish "J", will say "Hall". That's wrong, too. It rhymes with "gal."
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