By Cailey Rizzo
August 06, 2017
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When cowboys were exploring the Wild West, they came across nine lakes in New Mexico. In an attempt to get to know the land, they cut giant pieces of rope to try to measure how deep these bodies of water were. No luck. They tied several long pieces of rope together and they still couldn’t reach the bottom. They couldn’t even see the bottom.

Courtesy of New Mexico Tourism Department

Local legends tell of objects going missing in the lakes, only to wash up later in the Carlsbad Caverns or Gulf of Mexico. Others warn of strong underwater currents that suck up swimmers and divers, never to be seen again. There are some who tell stories about a giant turtle monster who patrols the bottom of the lake.

The place was given the quite ominous name of Bottomless Lakes State Park — although it’s not exactly true.

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The park’s nine lakes are not actually lakes, and they are not actually bottomless. They are sinkholes filled with water (or cenotes, if you prefer) that range from 17 to 90 feet deep. It’s the unique blue-green color given off by underwater plants that makes the bodies of water look endless.

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Although anybody can visit eight of the nine lakes, there’s only one (Lake Lea) that permits swimming. It has a surface area of about 15 acres and plummets to depths of 90 feet, making it perfect for scuba divers. At the bottom of the lake, divers can partake in a game of underwater poker, view the “Mecca” (a large group of springs below the lakes’ surfaces) or spot endangered fish species.

Those who would rather keep their feet on land can hike trails, go birdwatching, or compete in a sand sculpture contest on the Lake Lea beach.

The park has campgrounds open mid-May through Labor Day and is accessible from $5 per day.