Primitive Camping @ Brantley Lake State Park

Date Visited: 4/26/2018

Maybe it was the impression that TV shows like The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams had on our emotional development growing up, but it seems that when we spend enough time living among the animals they begin to feel like family. We really enjoy watching their daily routines and how they interact with one another. It is especially interesting when we encounter a new species like we had done with our new friend the roadrunner. That said, we had to move on. So we parted ways with the deer and roadrunner and started our long 500 mile drive to Brantley Lake State Park. We left at 9:18 am; gained another hour crossing time zones; and finally arrived at 5:40 pm.

Nine and a half hours is a long drive, but we really wanted to get to New Mexico where the bulk of our exploring was planned and crossing the huge state of Texas simply takes time. To break up the road monotony Mr. McGee had a little something planned: Our first trip to Whataburger!

It probably seems a little silly to be so excited about fast food, but we’ve heard people stand by their deliciousness and wanted to put the reviews to the test. I was not disappointed! The Jalapeno Cheddar burger was by far the best tasting fast food burger I have ever had in my 50+ years of life. My mouth waters just imaging the day when we return to have another.

With our bellies full we continued on to our camping destination at Brantley Lake State Park. As soon as we entered the park we were met by this guy right here.

In Florida we also have this eastern cottontail and another similar bunny that is a little darker in coat color that is called the marsh rabbit. This is their New Mexico cousin the desert cottontail.

Below is the black tailed jackrabbit that we saw not much further up the road as we made our way though the park toward the camping area. This was my first jackrabbit encounter and I was very impressed by both their speed and their ears!

Interesting fact about jackrabbits is their range of movement. When food is closely situated next to their shelter they can still travel 1 to 2 miles each way to forage, but during the dryer months they have been known to travel as far as five miles. That’s a 10 mile round trip to the grocery store on foot. Lucky foot or not, I’d call that industrious! In contrast, cottontails generally spend their entire lives inside a 10 acre area, which kind of makes you wonder a bit about those Peter Cottontail stories you heard as a kid. There seems to be a lot less hippity-hoppity than one would have previously imagined.

We checked out the developed camping circle at the Limestone Campground. It’s a beautiful campground, but the spaces were a little close for us and didn’t all look level. Some were nicer than others and of course the prime spots were taken. The circle is on the top of a hill overlooking Brantley Lake which made the views outstanding and the wind speeds high enough that there were wind/sun shelters located on most (if not all) of the sites. But, as stated before we prefer the primitive sites for their solitude or at least for a wider berth between sites, so we headed down to the Rocky Bay Primitive camping area where we found the best spot with a view of the lake and Brantley Dam!

As we find ourselves at that stage between being young and healthy enough to be recklessly daring and being financially secured enough to retire, it’s hard to manage your desire to throw a lifetime of planning to the wind with your caution just to fulfill that need/want to be free and live in the wilderness as so many nomads are doing right now. Add in the anxiety that comes from living with a hereditary form of heart disease and it becomes a balancing act. Unfortunately that’s the hand I’ve been dealt. So when we find a spot like this where we can merge together access to healthcare with the feel of the wild – well, I call that the next best thing to Heaven!

When it comes to camping it really is all about personal preferences. We prefer to be parked out on BLM in the middle of nowhere, alone, with camera in hand, exploring our surroundings and documenting our discoveries, and yes, we are working toward that goal with a few caveats, but for now we are happy with whatever life affords us and Brantley Lake was just about as picture perfect as we could image.

Brantley Lake is a reservoir on the Pecos river impounded by the Brantley Dam which replaced the McMillan Dam in the 80’s. Although it’s function is flood control it is also a popular spot for anglers and home to many species of fish ranging in tastiness from the largemouth bass to crappie, which btw, doesn’t taste like it’s name at all. We are both fishing enthusiast (which you’ll hear about some day in the future since we live in the Redfish capitol of Florida and have caught some real monsters) so we found this information useful and thought other enthusiast might appreciate us passing it along.

Mrs. McGee taking a walk along the banks of Brantley Lake.

The beautiful thing about using state parks is their diversity and ease of access. There is always something to do and most parks take the care to accommodate the changing needs of people as they grow older. As my mother-in-law would say, “What a blessing!”

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">After a walk we enjoyed a beautiful sunset and settled in for a perfectly peaceful night. After a walk we enjoyed a beautiful sunset and settled in for a perfectly peaceful night.

One thing I forgot to mention was our delight at having a good strong evening wind, because the minute you stepped into a sheltered area the mosquitoes descended on you like you were the only living human at a zombie convention. Simple solution – stay in the wind.

The next morning it was off to the shower so we could start our day. I won’t talk too much about how unimpressed I was by the cleanliness of the shower, but there was enough hair on the floor of the women’s facility to make more than one wig and the smell of urine in the bathroom stalls was almost unbearable. Unfortunate, but it happens. We try not to hold it against the park unless it seems to be a consistent pattern. Next trip they might be spotless, or not. But the showers were hot and all the simple things like electric outlets and mirrors were in place for your convenience. All in all – it’s doable.

Clean and refreshed we were eager to start our day and what a day it was! We hope you join us as we visit Living Desert Zoo & Gardens. Until next time, take care, and enjoy the journey.

Daily Tally

  • Distance: 509 miles
  • Drive time: 9:22
  • Gas: $80
  • Food: $15.95
  • Campsite fees: $8.00
  • Memories: priceless

Total $103.95

If your interested in visiting Brantley Lake State Park here is their address and contact information:

Brantley Lake State Park 
33 East Brantley Lake Road 
Carlsbad, NM 88221
Park Phone: 575-457-2384
Reservations: 1-877-664-7787


  • Dump Station
  • Electric Hookups
  • Shelters/Tables
  • Group Shelters
  • Water Hydrants
  • Rest Rooms
  • Showers
  • Boat Ramp
  • Fishing / Boating / Water Skiing
  • Hiking
  • Birding
  • Tent Camping
  • Public Telephone
  • Scenic Overlook
  • View of Brantley Dam
  • Day Use Area
  • 14 miles to Carlsbad

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