Dragonflies Habitat: Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, NM

With its wide variety of habitats ranging from the Pecos River and saline sinkholes, to ponds, Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge is an ideal place to find dragonflies.

Four short (less than 0.5 miles each) and two longer (1.5 – 4 miles) hiking trails are available adjacent to the wildlife drive or Refuge headquarters. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Its location in eastern New Mexico puts the Refuge within the range of many eastern, western, and southern dragonfly species.

There are close to 100 species at the Refuge, but most are uncommon or only found in areas that are not open to the public.

The visitor center has a guide available to assist in identifying the dragonflies that are found along the Refuge tour route. The species included are those that are common and easy to find.

Many dragonflies can be approached at close range. Since dragonflies are small, you may wish to use binoculars to see some field marks.

If a dragonfly flies off before you can identify it, don’t worry. Generally, if there is one individual of a species, there will be more in the area. Also, since most dragonflies have small territories and it probably will show up again nearby.

Plan to attend the Dragonfly Festival, September 7-9, 2012. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best time to observe dragonflies at Bitter Lake is on sunny and hot days. They do not like cool temperatures or rain, and even clouds will make some species take cover in bushes. During the summer the best time of day is usually mid-to-late morning before the typical afternoon winds pick up. Since the temperature can be over 100 degrees, be sure to wear a hat, sun screen and LOTS of water—and remember to drink it!

Friends of Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

The Friends of Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge sponsor an annual Dragonfly Festival the first weekend following Labor Day (September 7-9, in 2012). This year’s festival marks New Mexico’s centennial and the 75th anniversary of Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Photo Tips

The refuge offers excellent nature photography and wildlife viewing opportunities. The eight-mile wildlife drive is one of the best ways to observe wildlife. If you enjoy dragonfly watching, try taking the short Dragonfly Trail within the first one mile on the auto drive.

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge


Operating Hours: Open year-round; visitors center open 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Monday-Saturday; tour loop open 1 hour before sunrise-1 hour after sunset

Location: From Roswell, east on Highway 380 about three miles, north on Red Bridge Road, and east on Pine Ridge Road to refuge, following directional signs; OR north on Highway 285, and east on Pine Lodge Road to Refuge, following directional signs

Please be aware that using a GPS to locate the entrance to Bitter Lake NWR will take you to a dead end road

Admission: Non-fee area

Primary Wildlife: Migratory waterfowl and sandhill cranes—primarily a winter resting and feeding area, great variety of wildlife

Habitat: 24,520 acres on the northern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert changing to grass and shrub community and includes playa lakes, marshes, man-made lakes, and 700 acres of cultivated crop land

Straddling the Pecos River, Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge is truly a jewel, a wetland oasis inhabitated by a diverse abundance of wildlife species. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Address: 4067 Bitter Lake Road, Roswell, NM 88201

Contact: (575) 622-6755

Website: fws.gov/southwest

Friends of Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Website: friendsofbitterlake.com

Dragonfly Festival: September 7-9, 2012

Please Note: This is Part 2 of a 2-part series on Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Part 1: Birding Hotspot: Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, NM

Worth Pondering…
A happy life is not built up of tours abroad and pleasant holidays, but of little clumps of violets noticed by the roadside, hidden away almost so that only those can see them who have God’s peace and love in their hearts; in one long continuous chain of little joys, little whispers from the spiritual world, and little gleams of sunshine on our daily work.

—Edward Wilson

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