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Capitan, New Mexico's Mama Bear RV Park and Smokey Bear Historical Park

Capitan, New Mexico's Mama Bear RV Park and Smokey Bear Historical Park


avatar   Stacy
Trip Date 10/22/2019
Posted On 12/17/2019 15:20:13

Camping | New Mexico | Capitan | Ruidoso | Mama Bear RV Park | Budget Friendly RV Camping | South Central New Mexico | Smokey Bear Historical Park



One of our goals was to find reasonably priced RV sites for a three week journey through parts of west Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. We made use of our Passport America discount in several cities, but our luck ran out when searching for sites in Ruidoso, New Mexico. Since prices at the city's RV parks were on the high end, we broadened our search to include nearby cities in south central New Mexico. Once I realized that the grave of Smokey Bear was within walking distance, we settled on Mama Bear RV Park in Capitan. Both were less than a 30 minute drive from Ruidoso.


Capitan, New Mexico - Hometown of Smokey Bear

Capitan, New Mexico - Hometown of Smokey Bear

If you are in search of budget friendly RV camping near Ruidoso, you've come to the right place. This post will give you an overview of what amenities you can expect, along with a few pictures of the small RV park. You'll also find an introduction to Smokey Bear Historical Park. This not to be missed attraction is enjoyable for both adults and kids and is easy to visit while in the area.

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Campground Amenities at Mama Bear RV Park

With sites for just 20 RVs, Mama Bear RV Park is locally owned and operated. Compared to many other parks in the vicinity of Ruidoso, sites are more reasonably priced at this no frills park.


Entering Mama Bear RV Park

Entering Mama Bear RV Park

By living in an onsite mobile home, the park operator offers extended hours (9:00 AM - 10:00 PM daily). While she was a little surprised by our arrival, fortunately she had our reservation documented on her calendar. After we checked in and paid for our stay, she escorted us outside and shared her recommendations for getting set up.


Check-in "Office" at Mama Bear RV Park

Check-in "Office" at Mama Bear RV Park

The clean and well maintained park had dumpsters available for trash disposal. Other than utilities and a bathhouse (open during all but winter months), the park has no other amenities. During our short stay, we never took the time to check out the condition of the bathhouse.

The park is located on W. Smokey Bear Boulevard and sits within walking distance of both a coin operated laundry, several restaurants and a local grocery store. In addition to a visit to Smokey Bear Historical Park, those interested in learning more about the area may be interested in Fort Stanton and the "ghost town" city of Lincoln, New Mexico.


Capitan Coin Operated Laundry

Capitan Coin Operated Laundry

The total cost for our two night stay at Mama Bear RV Park was $59.30. No deposit was required, and the full payment was due in cash upon our arrival.

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Campsite Amenities at Mama Bear RV Park

Reservations for nightly, weekly or monthly stays can be made via phone by calling (575) 354-2394 or by submitting a Contact Us request. Sites are assigned upon check-in and arrival. The RV park was quite full when we arrived, and some "campers" definitely appeared to be staying on a longer term basis.

With no visible site number, the site that we were assigned was toward the back of the park right next to a tall tree. Pull-through parking was easy on the flat gravel lot. We weren't sure how easy it would be to pull out of our site since there were RVs parked along the perimeter of both sides of the park. Luckily, Scott was able to make a wide loop turn around the tree, so no backing out was required!


All Set Up at Mama Bear RV Park

All Set Up at Mama Bear RV Park

With both 30- and 50-amp electric available, we chose 30-amp as we were sure that we wouldn't need to run two air conditioners with the cooler temperatures. In addition to electric, both water and on-site sewer connections are included.


On-site Utilities at Mama Bear RV Park

On-site Utilities at Mama Bear RV Park

Due to our assigned site location, we were required to disconnect our trailer from our tow vehicle to avoid blocking traffic. While this could be a negative for anyone planning to stay for just one night, we had planned to disconnect anyway.

Other than utilities, no other site specific amenities are offered. Additionally, with only one large shade tree at our site, there was no place for us to hang our hammocks.

Scott had good phone and data service through Verizon. My phone service through T-Mobile was intermittent and I had no data service throughout our stay. The park does offer wi-fi to guests, however we found the connection to be intermittent and rather slow. We were able to find a limited number of broadcast television channels available in the area.

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Favorite Campsites at Mama Bear RV Park

All things considered, we agreed that our favorite site at the RV park was our site next to the tree. We liked being further away from the highway as compared to the cluster of sites near the entrance. Although we did have to disconnect our car from our tow vehicle, parking was nearby, and we enjoyed having the shade tree.

Smokey Bear Historical Park

Ruidoso is probably the most well known city in south central New Mexico. We actually enjoyed our visit to Smokey Bear Historical Park more than the time that we spent in the big city! Like most, I was well aware of Smokey Bear, however I learned so much more during our time exploring both the indoor and outdoor self-guided exhibits at the park.


Capitan, New Mexico's Smokey Bear Historical Park

Capitan, New Mexico's Smokey Bear Historical Park

After paying our $2.00 per adult admission fee ($1.00 for kids aged 7 - 12 and free for those 6 and under), we watched an introductory movie. In just ten minutes, the movie told the history of the Smokey Bear campaign and the tale of the abandoned cub who became the real-life face of Smokey.


Entering Smokey Bear Historical Park

Entering Smokey Bear Historical Park

The fire prevention campaign originated in 1944, 75 years prior to our visit, with a fictional Smokey. While fighting a 1950 fire in the Capitan Mountains, part of the Lincoln National Forest, a cub was spotted clinging to a branch high up in a tree. After his rescue and once his severe burn wounds were cared for, this orphaned bear cub became the first live face of the Smokey Bear fire prevention campaign. "Smokey" was transferred to Washington D. C.'s National Zoo where he lived until his death in 1976.

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Immediately following the movie, we spent time exploring the mixed media indoor exhibits focused on Smokey, black bears, forests, fires and fire prevention and safety. I loved learning that "Goldie" aka "Mrs. Smokey", another orphaned bear from New Mexico, was sent to the National Zoo as a mate for Smokey. It was also fun to learn that Smokey had his own secretary and zip code to manage his correspondence. After all, he received more mail than even the President!


Inside the Smokey Bear Historical Park

Inside the Smokey Bear Historical Park

Next, we made our way outside to walk along the paved path in search of the spot where Smokey Bear is buried. Along the way are replicas of most of the vegetative life zones found in the state of New Mexico. Signage helps visitors understand which plants and animals thrive in each zone within the state.


New Mexico Life Zone Replicas on the Grounds of Smokey Bear Historical Park

New Mexico Life Zone Replicas on the Grounds of Smokey Bear Historical Park

Upon reaching his final resting place, we learned that Smokey actually retired from federal service about 18 months before his November 9, 1976 death. At the time, the mandatory retirement age for federal employees was 70 human years (or 25 bear years). He was laid to rest within site of the mountains where he was rescued before becoming a national figure.


Smokey Bear's Final Resting Place

Smokey Bear's Final Resting Place

There are more surprises on the park grounds including the final resting place of the first Smokey Bear Hot Air Balloon. (The balloon was destroyed in 2004 after an unexpected wind blew it into a radio tower at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.) There's also a playground for kids, picnic tables and restrooms.

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Fort Stanton

Check back in the coming weeks to read about touring Fort Stanton. Our upcoming post titled Touring New Mexico's Fort Stanton State Monument will include an overview of our self-guided tour of the museum, visitor's center and parade grounds. The post will be filled with some of the fort's checkered history along with plenty of pictures.

Ruidoso, New Mexico

What suggestions do you have for anyone planning to spend some time in or near Ruidoso, New Mexico?




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Capitan, New Mexico's Mama Bear RV Park and Smokey Bear Historical Park







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