Roswell; More than UFOs and Aliens

Dennis Balthaser's Editorial for May 2003

Roswell; More than UFOs and Aliens

Searching for the Truth
(Always Telling the Truth, Means Never Having to Remember Anything)


Roswell; More than UFOs and Aliens

Dennis Balthser with 'alien'

Mention that you are from "Roswell" and someone will invariably ask, " have you seen an alien?" The connection between Roswell and the alleged UFO incident of 1947 are synonymous. I've even mail ordered things and when giving my address as Roswell, New Mexico was told, "I'm sorry --- we don't ship out of the country." You get used to it.

Map showing Roswell & Albuquerque

Here in the southwest United States we don't measure distance in miles either, but rather in time. For those of us that live in Roswell we sometimes think, "you can't get there from here" due to the vastness of the area. As an example, the closest major cities are Lubbock and El Paso, Texas and Albuquerque, all about 3 hours driving distance, which converts to approximately 200 miles for all three from Roswell. That can create problems for woman that like to shop, but they'll jump in their vehicle make the round trip and think nothing of it.

Moving here from El Paso, Texas in 1996, which with it's sister city Juarez, Mexico, has a combined population of over 2 million people, I found Roswell to be a pleasant change. Roswell has a population of approximately 50,000 people and it's possible to drive from one end of town to the other in 15 or 20 minutes. Traffic congestion doesn't exist. Obtaining stores such as a Super Wal-Mart and Home Depot are major events for us. We're excited about getting an I-Hop restaurant soon too. Living here, it's the little things that you learn to appreciate such as the weather, (clear skies, an indescribable sunset, low humidity, etc.), and the people.

I thought for those of you that have never been here you might like to know a little about this community that became famous 56 years ago when a craft of unknown origin supposedly crashed on the high plains northwest of Roswell.

The International UFO Museum and Research Center

Due to that event, the International UFO Museum and Research Center, located downtown at the intersection of all roads in and out of Roswell has become world famous. Originally founded in 1991 by Walter Haut, Glenn Dennis and Max Littell, the museum draws 200,000 visitors to our city annually. Walter and Glenn are at the museum most days to share their experiences with the visitors. Max passed away in 2001. That number of visitors to Roswell annually converts to revenue for local merchants, restaurants and lodging facilities. Many downtown merchants have also adopted the alien theme in their window displays. Downtown Roswell has definitely been rejuvenated thanks to the museum being located there.

Being located in an arid desert region receiving only about 10 or 12 inches of rain per year at an elevation of 3600', I was surprised at the amount of vegetation within the city. Roswell has 41 parks offering sports facilities and jogging and bicycling trails, including the 36-acre Spring River Park and zoo. Also located just east of town is the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge---a habitat for sandhill cranes, snow geese and other migratory birds. In the same area is Bottomless Lakes State Park with camping and picnic facilities.

St. Andrews Episcopal Church

Over 100 churches or houses of worship represent all faiths. The Roswell Symphony Orchestra presents 5 or 6 concerts per season and is comprised of excellent musicians. Roswell's Community Little Theater presents local talent in productions at least 6 times a year. There is a Historic District of homes representing architectural styles including Queen Anne, Prairie, Bungalow, Victorian and others. Image Robert H. Goddard The Roswell Museum and Art Center features Native American, Western Americana and Hispanic collections. We have the Goddard Planetarium located next to the Art Museum as well as the "father of rocketry", Robert H. Goddard museum, which includes a workshop recreated to represent what his workshop looked liked while testing his rockets in the area. Other museums in town include the Historical Center for Southeast New Mexico, depicting the history of Roswell, Chaves County and southeastern New Mexico, and the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art. Finally there is the General Douglas L. McBride Military Museum, with military memorabilia and exhibit's documenting 20thcentury military history.

Roswell has an Adult Center, second to none offering more than 50 classes including foreign languages, writing, woodworking and fine arts. RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) provides a variety of opportunities for retired individuals to stay active in services for the community. The Chaves County J.O.Y. center provides services to senior citizens 60 years of age and older from four centers. We have 15 schools for K-6, 4 for 7-8 and 3 for 9-12, in addition to Eastern New Mexico University, with a coeducational college preparatory high school and university parallel junior college curriculum.

If you retire here (as I did to pursue my interest in Ufology), or are just visiting as over 200,000 people a year do (to visit the museum), Roswell is a must stop if in the southwest U.S.

The Carlsbad Caverns

If you plan on visiting Roswell there are several other attractions and points of interest within just a few hours driving time from Roswell that should be included in your itinerary.

To the south approximately 100 miles following US 285, is Carlsbad, New Mexico, home of the well known Carlsbad Caverns, which should not be missed. You can eat lunch 750' underground and have a choice of several walking tours into the caverns. The size of this cavern will amaze you. (The big room is the size of 8 football fields.) Carlsbad also has the living desert state park, with local animals and vegetation on display.

To the north on US 285 and State road 20 is Fort Sumner; the location of western outlaw "Billy the Kid's" gravesite, Fort Sumner State Monument and close by is Fort Sumner Lake State Park.

Billy the Kid

Following route 380 west from Roswell will take you both back in time through Lincoln, New Mexico, (where Billy the Kid broke out of jail), and through Capitan where the originally "Smokey the Bear" was laid to rest in 1976, after recovering from a forest fire in 1950 and living at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. for 26 years. Continuing west on 380 just passed Carrizozo, New Mexico is the Valley of Fires State Park. 5000 years ago little Black Peak erupted. Lava from the mountain flowed south covering an area 4 to 6 miles wide, more than 160 feet thick at the center and 44 miles long.

Smokey Bear Grave Site

Another 100 miles to the west on 380, just past Socorro will bring you to the future, and the location of the VLA (Very Large Array), consisting of 20 gigantic radio astronomy telescope dishes used to listen in on space for possible life, and as seen in the movie "Contact" with Jodie Foster.

Also traveling west on 380 and 70 from Roswell, you'll be amazed in the changes in the scenery as you drive from the high plains and desert area surrounding Roswell, into the Lincoln National Forest at elevations of 8-10,000 feet with 60' pine trees, fresh mountain air and snow skiing in the winter. Both Ruidoso and 30 miles away, the village of Cloudcroft, have quaint little shops, being adjacent to the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation.

The White Sands National Monument

Continuing west a short distance down the mountain from either Ruidoso or Cloudcroft, the city of Alamogordo, New Mexico becomes visible. Alamogordo is home to the Space Museum and Holloman Air Force Base, (White Sands Missile Range and home base of the F-117 Stealth fighter). 14 miles west of Alamogordo is the White Sands National Monument, consisting of 275 square miles of gypsum, creating the world's largest sand dune field.

A trip to Roswell and southeastern New Mexico will be one that you won't forget soon, blending the past with the future.

Dennis G. Balthaser
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