Clayton Lake State
(A Bonus Report)
|clear skies, no pollution|
remote location NE New Mexico
An Awesome night
Starry starry night…..
After returning from Clayton this evening having spent the some time in town listening to a group of singer/song writers I was filled with pleasant thoughts. The sound of guitars being played to their top potential, listening to newly created songs. Hearing a bit of the background behind the inspiration for each song. Being surrounded by creative folks, many with voices at their peak of perfection doing what they enjoy.
Watching the remnants of the sun descend below the horizon, shades of red and orange highlighted the clouds and Rabbit Ear mountain. Arriving at the campground just as darkness set in, I came inside the camper for a short while, reading, reflecting on the day, then wondering about the night sky. This region of the north eastern corner of New Mexico is recognized by the International Dark Sky Association as being one of those rare dark sky locations. Where we are able to "see the night sky as our ancient ancestors once did".
So with that in mind I bundled up and with a small pen light walked out onto the road behind my camper. Only a few campers had lights in their windows and I was able to position myself so they weren’t a distraction. The few street lights in the park are dimly lit and only shine a small pool of light directly below the light pole. Once I turned off the pen light, I could not see my hand in front of me.
|image acquired from internet, I did not take any photos|
with my camera/not compatible
I looked up into the pitch black sky, on a moonless night, as I have done often when out west. The stars are the brightest, most brilliant I have ever seen. The Milky Way shone across the entire sky from horizon to horizon, with not a single cloud to disrupt the view.
Constellations literally screamed at me for attention and the big dipper was so bright directly over my camper, I thought it might start pouring stardust onto the roof of the camper.
I slowly circled around to see the sky from every angle. Marveling at how clear the Milky Way streaked across the sky and how bright each star was. Remembering back when I would look up at the sky in other parts of the country, or near a town or city and how so many stars would be dimly lit. Not tonight. Each one, even the smaller stars, were as bright and clear as the largest stars in the heavens. Overwhelmed would be an accurate way to describe it all.
|Milky Way image, provided by internet|
I was not able to capture any images with my camera.
but yes, this is what I saw
Talk about an experience that fills a person with wonder. Tonight was one of those nights. And hoping to see it again tomorrow night as well.
If you ever have a chance to visit Clayton Lake State Park, in the very NE corner of New Mexico, in the high desert country, make sure you walk outside and look up at the stars… WOW. What an experience. Yes the dinosaur tracks are pretty awesome as well, but the night sky is the attraction.
There ‘s a second part to this little gem of a state park and that’s the dinosaur tracks. The story goes that back in 1955 The New Mexico Game and Fish Commission decided to build a dam as a bird refuge and fishing lake. During construction they created an emergency spillway, blasting away layers of basalt and shale. Many years later, 1982, Clayton Lake would finally overflow into the spillway. The force of the water would expose the final few inches of sandstone and debris and reveal the 500 tracks that were created along the edge of a vast inland sea. Now the story become even more interesting when I found out that the park rangers are not the ones to have discovered the now revealing dinosaur tracks. The tracks remained exposed for some time, with no one noticing them after the waters receded from the overflowing of the spillway. A Teacher from Colorado, who was camping at Clayton Lake, was exploring the shoreline and found the dinosaur tracks along the spillway. He then started to cut and dig out specimens of the tracks clandestinely when no one was around. He was a bit late in his nefarious endeavors late one day, when a park ranger came across the earthen dam and saw the teacher lugging a specimen out of the spillway. 27 years after the spillway was constructed, excavating only inches away from the hidden dinosaur track the teacher would be caught, the discovery of the tracks became known to the public and internationally.
The tracks were created over 100 million years ago. The majority of the tracks belong to the plant-eaters of the Cretaceous area, the ornithopods. A few tracks belong the sharp-clawed, meat-eating theropod dinosaur. Imagine if you will the spillway which contains the 500 tracks that are currently visible and how many more tracks are still buried in the shale along the once ancient shoreline surrounding Clayton lake and it’s spillway. Waiting to be dug up and explored.
|digging down all these layers for the spillway|
revealed the dinosaur tracks
removing more from this area would reveal even more tracks
|overlooking the spillway|
Needless to say, Clayton Lake State Park holds some spectacular scenery from night star gazing to dinosaur tracks, fishing and bird watching in season along the migration paths. Even their visitor center is an exploration in environmental architecture hay bale construction. Needing little to no heating or air conditioning during the summer. For an out of the way place, it’s a favorite of mine.