Oasis in the Desert – Sitting Bull Falls

Date Visited: 4/28/2018

When looking for places to camp and things to do in the Carlsbad area I stumbled upon this day use area called Sitting Bull Falls. The idea of a spring fed waterfall in the middle of a desert was more than intriguing enough to get it added to our list of day trips.

Inhabited since the Paleo-Indian period 10,000 years ago, Sitting Bull Falls has been a welcome oasis to many.

At an Elevation of 5000 feet I would have expected this waterfall to be seasonal and fed mostly by snow run-off or monsoon rains, but the falls are actually spring fed resulting in a number of streams and pools that are present year-round. Most of the water finds it’s way into the cracks and crevasses of the desert landscape and canyon walls. However, some of the water makes its way to the canyon edge and creates this beautiful oasis in the desert for all to enjoy.

In 1940 the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the shelters you see above making way for this area to be preserved long into the future.

On March 24, 1999 a time capsule was placed at the monument containing “representations of our generation’s hope and vision for conservation efforts on the National Forests in the future.” This time capsule is set to be opened in 2040 during the 100th anniversary of the “CCC”s construction of the falls use areas.

We headed up the paved trail to falls and the canyon. As we rounded the corner we spied a preview of what we were about to see.

The canyon face was a 150′ vertical wall dotted with vegetation, weeping walls, and a crystal clear stream running alongside.

As we approached the fall we were awe struck not by the volume of water that cascaded over the edge, but by the shear height of this desert waterfall.

To put things in perspective we snapped the picture below. (Thank you random visitor for providing some scale!)

The water cascades into a stunning pool teeming with life. Only a few brave souls dared the icy plunge on the day we were there, but I imagine during a hot summer day this place is busy with individuals wishing to cool off from the desert heat.

We watched the minnows frolic and flee from their unseen enemies, snapped more than too many pictures and returned to the day use area to take in the beauty of the desert wildflowers.

Although disappointed earlier today when we cancelled our hike around the 16 miles of trails surrounding Sitting Bull Falls, it turned out we were happy to have the extra time to fully enjoy the scenery of the waterfall itself before driving through Cloudcroft and later heading out into the hot desert sands. But more on that next week.

Until then, take care and enjoy the journey.

Sitting Bull Falls
Latitude : 32.245283
Longitude : -104.696627
Elevation : 5000

Amenities: picnic tables, covered shelters, potable water, bathrooms. Day Use area only. 

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