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Sitting Bull Falls, Carlsbad

#2 of 6 in Parks in Carlsbad
Sitting Bull Falls is a series of waterfalls located in a canyon in the Lincoln National Forest southwest of the city of Carlsbad, New Mexico. The United States Department of Agriculture's Forest Service maintains a popular recreation area for day use at the location of the falls.The falls are fed by springs located in the canyon above. The water flows through a series of streams and pools until reaching the falls where it drops 150 feet into the canyon below. Most of the water disappears into the gravel or cracks in the rocks and either reappears in springs further down the canyon or joins the Pecos Valley underground water supply.The area around Sitting Bull Falls is the remnant of a reef system known as the Capitan Great Barrier Reef dating from the Permian period. Approximately 250 million years ago, the region was located near the edge of an inland sea.The origin of the name Sitting Bull Falls remains uncertain. One version holds that the falls were named after a Sioux medicine man. The Apache name for the area was gostahanagunti which means hidden gulch.A number of hiking trails allow visitors access to the springs above the falls. A paved path connects the picnic area to the area around the bottom of the falls where wading and swimming are allowed. Additionally, there are a number of caves in the area which require special permits to visit.In 1940, the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed a number of stone buildings which are part of the parking and picnic area. A time capsule located in front of one of the buildings was dedicated on March 24, 1999 and will be opened on the 100th anniversary of the Civilian Conservation Corps' construction in the area. The day use area was closed from April 27, 2011 through April 6, 2012 due to damage from a wildfire in the area. A number of the shelters were repaired after fire had damaged them. Some signs of the fire can still be seen in the area.
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Sitting Bull Falls Reviews
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.5
271 reviews
  • Defintely worth the trip. Honestly, the ride from Carlsbad to the Waterfalls isn't that bad. Its a solid hour, but I certainly didn't think it went on forever nor did I feel like I was never going to ...  more »
  • New Mexico is a whole lot of desert so seeing that they had a National Forest with falls AND that it's swimmer friendly really piqued my interest. It was an easy sell to my family. To prepare: 1. We w...  more »
  • A great spot but getting there can be tricky. From Carlsbad turn left onto Queens Highway/NM 132, drive @32.5miles to a right into Sitting Bull Road. The turn is easy to miss as there is no sign other than a traditional one that is twisted so that it's hard to see. There are a couple of covered picnic tables at that intersection as a landmark. The falls are 7.5 miles down a curving two lane. Watch for cattle as sections of Lincoln National Park are open to free range grazing. The falls are just a short walk from the recreation area parking, which features several covered picnic tables and a water fountain. There is a $5 day fee for your visit. This is an oasis in the middle of the desert. The falls are fed by a mountain spring that must constantly run because there are small fish in the pond below. Its beautiful. Bring a lunch and enjoy this miracle of nature.
  • Goggle took us on a dirt road to get to the falls but the road is terrible and ends abruptly. Even if you have a truck, you can't get past the fences so stay on the main road and go around. The falls are small but a pretty sight. The hike up will take you to the top of the falls according to the ranger, but we didn't go all the way to see it. Nice picnic area. Closes at 4pm for incoming traffic and 5pm for outgoing.

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