Oliver Lee Memorial State Park

sunset on site 13
Oliver Lee State Park has history, an amazing diversity of desert plants, flowing water and the plants and animals associated with it, and a great hike into the Lincoln National Forest. While this campground is probably quite hot in the summertime, most any other time would be an excellent time to visit.

Campground data:

Controlling agency: New Mexico State Parks; Oliver Lee Memorial
Region: South-central; Tularosa valley.
CG elevation: 4350ft; 1326m
Campsite count: 48.
Visual density: 0.00. visual density not recorded. From memory, it is probably around 4--5.
Fee: $10.00. Add $4.00 for sites with RV hookups.
Season: All year. According to a ranger, high season is late February through early April, with the busiest time being spring break.

Summer will be hot.

The campground gets a lot of day use on Easter Sunday.

Dogs: Yes. on leash
Horses: Unknown.
Handicapped accessible: Yes.
RV parking surface: gravel
RV pull-through spaces? Yes.
RV parking notes: A few campsites are wide spots on the loop road, and they are effectively pull-through. Most are back-in.
General RV notes: Only two sites have sewer; they are designated as campground host sites, and might not be available. Otherwise, an RV dump station is at the park entrance.

Sites with hookups are 1-10 and 20-27.

General notes: Not surprisingly, shaded campsites go quickly in the summer.

Very few of the sites with hookups also have shade structures.

Due to severe flash flood damage (i.e., the flood destroyed most of it completely), most of the riparian (nature) trail is closed. They are working to repair the damage, but it may take a while due to the number of government (state and federal) agencies involved, and the amount of money in various budgets.

Campground facilities: water, trash can(s), vault toilet(s) (on loop B), flush toilet(s) (on loop A, and the visitor center also has flush toilets available when it is open.), fire pit, showers, electrical hookups, water hookups, sewer hookups, RV dump station, reservation sites (reserve at ReserveAmerica.com).
Campground attractions: hiking, wildlife, wildflowers (especially cactus), scenery, history, year-round access.

When we visited it:

Date: 2005-03-19 2005-03-26 2005-04-01
Cleanliness: 10. 10. 10. Over repeated trips, we have never found more than two small pieces of litter.


Waypoint Type Description
OLVRLEECGCampgroundOliver Lee Memorial State Park


Paper maps:
Map name Cartographer Year Scale Topo map? Online access Notes
Lincoln National Forest, Smokey Bear and Sacramento Ranger Districts US Forest Service 2007 1:126720 N from Amazon (purchase) Sacramento Ranger District
Wildernesses of New Mexico US Forest Service 1981 1:1000000 N No online copies. Base map with national forests, wilderness areas and highways.

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Getting to the campground:

From Alamogordo, take US 54 south from the point where it crosses US 70. After about 12.6 miles, a sign indicates the left turn to the park. This road dead-ends after about 3.9 miles at the park.
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About the campground:

campgound loops
As you can see from this photo taken from the Dog Canyon trail, the campground consists of two loops. The camp sites are spaced far enough apart to be quiet, even though there was a troop of Boy Scouts nearby one night.
Some of the campsites (such as site 14) have sun shelters. As you can imagine, these sites are the first to be claimed in the summer.
Our truck in site 14; illustrating the sun shelter.
view west from campground
The view west from the campground includes White Sands and the Organ and San Andreas Mountains. Sunrise (as seen here) on the mountains is beautiful, and the sun sets on the nearby Sacramento mountains (see the photo at the very top of this page for an example).

One of the reasons to visit this campground is because of the plants. Cactus such as this Turk's head bloom in the campground. Additionally, the park has a garden where a wide selection of identified native plants grow. Note that the cactus in the park and the nearby national forest are protected and must be enjoyed on-site.

In addition to the diversity of plants, we also saw many species of birds.

blossoms of a turk's head cactus

Plants we saw around the campground:

Reader comments about this campground:

On Thu Jan 19 12:37:03 2006 Bob from Carlsbad, NM said:
Visited the campground in late September 2005. Very pretty and clean campground and park with interesting nature trail. Spotless restrooms and showers.

It was unseasonably warm when we stayed there, which made sleeping in our popup camper without an airconditioner a little uncomfortable until it finally cooled down late at night.

Campground is convenient for visiting the White Sands National Monument and other things to see and do around Alamogordo.

On Sun Aug 26 19:05:54 2007 R. Miera from Alb, N.M. said:
We stayed at this campground in late July. The surrounding area was beautiful due to some rains earlier. Some trails were still washed out from the previous years monsoons, but we still followed the trail up the mountain and the views were spectacular. We did see a rattle snake and horned toad.

We will like to go back and visit this campground during a cooler time of the year.

On Sun Mar 30 16:11:15 2008 Gil from El Paso said:
I have been coming to Oliver Lee State Park since 1987. Used to tent, then pop-up, and now a travel trailer. Used to be me and my wife, then me, wife and baby, then me, wife and two babies, and now me, wife and two grown up children. They have been practically been raised at this place or "Babbling Brooks" as we call it. We have been there when the temperatures have been over 110 degrees and down below freezing. We've also been there during high gusty winds, rainstorms, beautiful all-day drizzles, strong snowy days, and great spring time weather. It has always been very clean. The rest rooms are very well kept. What we especially like about this place is that it is very quiet, calm, and serene. The night skies are excellent for star gazing. In 2002 we saw the most incredible Leonid Meteor shower ever. Over the years more people have discovered this place, but still we enjoy coming out here very much. It is no longer the well kept secret that it once was, but that's a good thing since more people get to enjoy it. Let's hope it continues to stay as peaceful as it has been over the years. As I write this, I just got back yesterday from being out there the last three days. Got to see a red fox near the creek too. Great place. Hope to continue camping there for years to come.

***(Oh yeah, the "Man in the Van" [he now has a trailer] who lives just outside the park has been there longer than I have been camping at that place. He's there 24/7. Oliver Lee State Park just wouldn't be the same if he were to move on, or worse.)

On Thu Mar 5 11:43:59 2009 Joe Ben Sanders from Tularosa, NM and Bent,NM said:
My first paid excavation job as a professional archaeologist was when the wonderful folks at HSR, Inc, Mark Wimberly and Peter Eidenbach, invited me to join them. It was the fall of 1978, that we began excavations of FRENCHY'S CABIN. We found whole bottles with paper labels, a gun flask, and even two metal arrowheads the Apache had made before Frenchy ever got there. In 1984, the folks at HSR,Inc hired me as a crew chief to excavate OLIVER LEE'S dog canon ranch house, and it was a wonderful experience too. These buildings are on display, and LEEs ranch house has been rebuilt. These are the only historic building the public can visit in the basin that have been excavated and interpreted for the public. Historians, cattlemen, and hikers will love it here, and archaeologists, it is special. The trail up the Canon goes through several Apache and US Military battle sites that remain largely undocumented and offer a special feeling when hiking here. In 1978, we collected fossil pack rat middens in some of the rock shelters, and some were over 10,000 years old. As a Principal Investigator, it is my public duty as mandated by BLM, to educate the public, it is an obligation any archaeologists accepts, and so I offer a list of books that will make your visit more enjoyable. C. L. Sonnichsen book titled Tularosa: Last of the Frontier West, Tales of the Tularosa by Tom Charles, and Another Verdict for Oliver Lee. These will make your visit more meaningful in a historic sense.

[Note from the Webmaster: the books without links are out-of-print, or have limited availability and might be hard to find.]

On Sun Apr 26 07:31:07 2009, Nigel Aplin from Toronto, Canada said:
We visited the park on April 19 and 20, 2009. It was excellent in every respect: clean and well maintained and situated on the edge of the wilderness of Dog Canyon. The 4.5 mile hike to the top of the canyon is spectacular with views of White Sands and the vast basin below. Overall, a highlight of our trip to New Mexico.

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