Migratory waterfowl may consider this a sufficient winter home, but birders will see it as paradise. From October through February, the seasonal wetlands in and surrounding Salt Creek Wilderness play host to 5,000 to 20,000 ducks, 10,000 to 30,000 geese, as many as 30,000 cranes, and countless white pelicans and snowy egrets. The uplands, by contrast, are chock-full of quail, roadrunners, pheasant, desert cottontail rabbits, and black-tailed jackrabbits. More secretive but still to be found are mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, and badgers.
Salt Creek Wilderness lies within the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge which is made up of three Tracts. Most of the North Tract is designated Wilderness. Salt Creek itself runs through the center of the Wilderness, an area of native grassland, sand dunes, brushy bottomlands, and a northern boundary distinguished by its red-rimmed plateau, all just west of the Pecos River.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Salt Creek Wilderness.
The Salt Creek Wilderness Area is located near Roswell, NM, immediately west of the Pecos River, just north of U.S. Hwy. 70, and east of U.S. Hwy. 285. One public access point, for both foot and horse entry, is at a small parking lot on the north side of Hwy. 70 about 10 mi. northeast of where Hwys. 285 and 70 intersect two miles north of the Roswell Mall and Super Walmart. The highway turnoff is marked by a small wooden sign, Salt Creek Wilderness Area. This access point is at the very southeasternmost corner of the Wilderness. Another similar access point is located at the very western edge of the Wilderness, and can be reached by turning east off U.S. Highway 285 onto One Horse Road. This intersection is about 7.5 mi. north of the Hwys. 285 and 70 intersection. Proceed about 3.75 mi. east on One Horse Road, which will curve toward the northeast and become Cottonwood Road after about 2.75 mi. The parking lot/access point is on the east (right) side of Cottonwood Road about a mile beyond the curve and immediately before the road crosses Salt Creek (usually dry).
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
Most visitors to the Wilderness engage in hiking, horseback riding or hunting with fewer numbers of birdwatchers and photographers. The more scenic area includes the red bluffs and the striking Inkpot Sinkhole located in the north-central part of the Wilderness, about 2.5 mi. north and 1 mi. west of the U.S. Hwy. 70 public access point. Check with the refuge office (telephone 575-622-6755) or website for additional refuge regulations or information. Hunting, primarily for deer and small game (quail, dove, and pheasants), is conducted generally in accordance with State of New Mexico hunting regulations with some refuge specific regulations in effect. There is no refuge permit required, nor a fee charged for hunting on the refuge. Exploring is limited to daylight hours as camping is not allowed. Campfires are also not permitted.
Climate and Special Equipment Needs
Climate conditions are highly variable from bitterly cold winter days to 100+ degree "scorchers" during summer. Winds 40 mph or greater regularly occur during the Spring, and precipitation is unusual with annual total around 11 -12 inches. Much of this is typically received in brief thunderstorms in July and August. PLAN TO BRING YOUR OWN DRINKING WATER. Although several large water-filled sinkholes are scattered throughout the area, the water is quite "gypy" and is not recommended for human consumption, even after filtration. Deer and other wildlife utilize this water, and it is apparently not harmful to horses.
Safety and Current Conditions
Wilderness users should carry plenty of drinking water, as previously mentioned. Sunscreen is also suggested and mosquito repellant can be needed, particularly after precipitation events. Visitors should be especially cautious around the Inkpot and other sinkholes, as well as the bluffs, because the gypsum "rock"/soil is somewhat "crumbly" and unstable. Also be advised that rattlesnakes are very common throughout the area, so snake "leggings" and extreme caution are highly recommended. Violent thunderstorms with dangerous lightning can appear with little warning, so always take appropriate precautions.
Want to Volunteer for Wilderness?
Citizens who volunteer their time to steward our wilderness areas are an essential part of wilderness management. Contact the following groups to inquire about volunteer opportunities.