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Carlsbad, New Mexico
Eddy County CourthouseCarlsbad Museum and Art Center (l)Carlsbad Library (r)Carlsbad Municipal Building
Eddy County Courthouse
Carlsbad Museum and Art Center (l)
Carlsbad Library (r)
Carlsbad Municipal Building
Official seal of Carlsbad, New Mexico
The Cavern City
The Pearl on the Pecos
Location in the state of New Mexico
Location in the state of New Mexico
Country United States
State New Mexico New Mexico
County Eddy County
Founded 1888 (as Eddy)
Incorporated 1893 (as Eddy)
1899 (as Carlsbad)
 • Type Mayor-council government
 • Mayor Dale Janway
 • City Council
 • State House
 • State Senate
 • U.S. House
 • Total 29.2 sq mi (75.6 km2)
 • Land 28.9 sq mi (74.9 km2)
 • Water 0.3 sq mi (0.7 km2)
3,295 ft (1,004 m)
 • Total 26,138
 • Density 903/sq mi (348.8/km2)
Demonym(s) Carlsbadian
Time zone UTC-7 (MST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-6 (MDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s) 575
FIPS code 35-12150
GNIS feature ID


Primary airport Cavern City Air Terminal

Carlsbad (/ˈkɑːrlzbæd/ KARLZ-bad) is a city in and the county seat of Eddy County, New Mexico, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 26,138. Carlsbad is centered at the intersection of U.S. Routes 62/180 and 285, and is the principal city of the Carlsbad-Artesia Micropolitan Statistical Area, which has a total population of 55,435. Located in the southeastern part of New Mexico, Carlsbad straddles the Pecos River and sits at the eastern edge of the Guadalupe Mountains.

Carlsbad is a hub for potash mining, petroleum production, and tourism. Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located 20 miles (32 km) southwest of the city, and Guadalupe Mountains National Park lies 54 miles (87 km) southwest across the Texas border. The Lincoln National Forest is to the northwest of town.


Development of southeastern New Mexico in the late 19th century was fueled by the arrival of colonies of immigrants from England, Switzerland, France, and Italy. Located along the banks of the Pecos River, Carlsbad was originally christened the town of Eddy on September 15, 1888, and organized as a municipal corporation in 1893; the settlement bore the name of Charles B. Eddy, co-owner of the Eddy-Bissell Livestock Company. With the commercial development of local mineral springs near the flume for medicinal qualities, the town later voted to change its name to Carlsbad after the famous European spa Carlsbad, Bohemia (now Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic). On March 25, 1918, the growing town surpassed a population of 2,000, allowing then-governor of New Mexico Washington Ellsworth Lindsey to proclaim Carlsbad a city.

Most of Carlsbad's development was due to irrigation water. Local cattleman recognized the value of diverting water from the Pecos River to the grazing lands on Eddy's Halagueno Ranch. Many construction projects were undertaken to establish an irrigation system within the town. The Avalon Dam was constructed upstream of town, and canals diverted the water into town. Conflict arose when the canals met the river downstream; as a result, the Pecos River Flume was built, first out of wood and later concrete (the flume is often titled the only place where a river crosses itself).

Key to the growth of the area were special excursion trains that brought visitors from the East at reduced fares. Before the railroad was completed from Pecos in 1891, travel parties met at the railroad station in Toyah, Texas, and were driven by buggy 90 miles (140 km) over a rough, dusty road to this small but growing settlement on the banks of the Pecos River. Most of the early construction in Carlsbad was completed with locally manufactured bricks. The bricks were quite soft and of poor quality. The former First National Bank building at the corner of Canal and Fox streets is one of the few remaining buildings constructed with the local brick. The re-discovery of Carlsbad Caverns (then known as "Bat Cave") by local cowboys in 1901 and the subsequent establishment of Carlsbad Caverns National Park on May 14, 1930, gained the town of Carlsbad substantial recognition.

In 1925, potash was discovered near Carlsbad, and for many years Carlsbad dominated the American potash market. Following the decline of the potash market in the 1960s, the residents and leaders of Carlsbad lobbied for the establishment of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), a site where low-level nuclear waste would be stored thousands of feet underground in salt beds. Congress authorized the WIPP project in 1979, and construction began in 1980. The DOE Carlsbad Area Office opened in 1993, and the first waste shipment arrived in 1999.

Currently, Carlsbad has experienced a "boom". The city is leading in the production of oil and natural gases across the entire area, causing an increase in the employment rate. Due to this increase families and individuals have begun to migrate to Carlsbad.

Photo of Carlsbad from the top of C-Hill

Geography and climate

Carlsbad is located near the center of Eddy County at 34°24′43″N 104°14′11″W / 34.41194°N 104.23639°W / 34.41194; -104.23639 (32.407577, -104.245167) at an elevation of 3,295 feet (1,004 m). Carlsbad is situated in the northern reaches of the Chihuahuan Desert ecoregion, in the lower Pecos River Valley. Via US 285 it is 36 miles (58 km) north to Artesia and 86 miles (138 km) south to Pecos, Texas. US Routes 62 and 180 lead northeast 69 miles (111 km) to Hobbs and southwest 169 miles (272 km) to El Paso.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Carlsbad has a total area of 29.2 square miles (75.6 km2); 28.9 square miles (74.9 km2) of the city is land, and 0.3 square miles (0.7 km2), or 0.93%, is water. Most of the water within city limits consists of the Pecos River and Lake Carlsbad recreation area. The river flows into the northern part of Carlsbad, downstream from Lake Avalon and Brantley Lake, passes east of downtown, and exits in the southeast. Dark Canyon Draw also runs through the southern part of town, but only drains during heavy rainfall.

Carlsbad is part of the Interior West climate zone. It is classified as semi-arid (Köppen BSk), meaning average annual precipitation is less than potential evapotranspiration, but more than half. A moderate amount of rain falls each year, with the maximum occurring during September. 53 tornadoes have been reported in Eddy County since 1950.

Climate data for Carlsbad, New Mexico
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 88
Average high °F (°C) 58
Average low °F (°C) 28
Record low °F (°C) −16
Precipitation inches (mm) 0.44


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 963
1910 1,736 80.3%
1920 2,205 27.0%
1930 3,708 68.2%
1940 7,116 91.9%
1950 17,975 152.6%
1960 25,541 42.1%
1970 21,297 −16.6%
1980 25,496 19.7%
1990 24,952 −2.1%
2000 25,625 2.7%
2010 26,138 2.0%
Est. 2015 28,957 10.8%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 Census

As of the census of 2010, there are 26,138 people, 10,257 households, and 6,898 families residing in the city. The population density is 920.4/mi² (353.2/km²). There are 11,421 housing units at an average density of 402.6 per square mile (155.4/km²).

The racial makeup of the city was:

  • 77.4% White (53.1% non-Hispanic)
  • 1.9% Black or African American
  • 1.3% Native American
  • 1.0% Asian
  • <0.1% Pacific Islander
  • 15.28% from other races
  • 3.1% Multiracial (two or more races)
  • 42.5% of the population were Hispanics or Latinos (of any race)

There are 10,257 households out of which 29.2% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.0% are married couples living together, 14.0% have a female householder with no husband present, and 32.7% are non-families. 28.1% of all households are made up of individuals and 11.4% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.50 and the average family size is 3.03.

In the city, the population is spread out with 25.6% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 23.8% from 25 to 44, 26.1% from 45 to 64, and 15.6% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 39.4 years. For every 100 females there are 96.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 93.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $30,658, and the median income for a family is $35,640. Males have a median income of $31,214 versus $19,228 for females. The per capita income for the city is $16,496. 16.5% of the population and 13.1% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 21.4% of those under the age of 18 and 11.2% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Points of interest

  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park, 20 miles (32 km) southwest
  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park, 54 miles (87 km) southwest, in Texas
  • Lincoln National Forest, 40 miles (64 km) west
  • Carlsbad Museum and Art Center
  • Carlsbad Skate Park
  • The Cascades of Carlsbad
  • Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park, which features a painting bear. Maggie Oso paints with her paws in a variety of non-toxic paint colors and heavy white paper that the zoo curator places in her holding area. Maggie can choose the color of paint to use and the pattern that she will paint. Maggie's paintings are matted and framed for the public to see. Maggie's art work has been featured in several art exhibits throughout Carlsbad.
  • National Cave and Karst Research Center
  • Pecos River Flume
  • Project Gnome, 30 miles (48 km) east
  • Project Playground
  • The Artist Gallery


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