Bonito Lake has quite a history including being the site of a sunken city and one of the first -- if not the first -- mass murders in New Mexico history.

Little Bear Fire of 2012

Bonito Lake has been closed since 2012 due to excessive fire damage but, should reopen in 2018. (Click here for updates). The damage was caused by the Little Bear Fire in 2012. It was started by lightning and burned almost 45,000 acres.

Mass Murders

According to, Martin Nelson and a doctor named William Flynn were sharing a hotel room and Nelson killed Flynn while robbing him. The noise woke the couple that owned the place so, Nelson murdered them, their two sons and their daughter. Then, he killed a neighbor trying to help the family and shot another man as he fled! Finally, a justice of the peace shot and killed Nelson.

The Lost City of Bonito

The city of Bonito itself met with a bitter end. In the early 1900's, Southern Pacific railroad bought Bonito's water rights and constructed a new dam. As the reservoir filled, Bonito was completely submerged. Yep, the whole city is under that water. (Don't plan on visiting the ruins when Bonito reopens though, as neither swimming nor scuba diving are allowed.)

Bonito Lake is about two hours from El Paso, north of Ruidoso, on Highway 37.

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