Artesia got its name from artesian wells that were dug here in the late 1800s to tap the abundant water supply just below the ground's surface. The region's subterranean bounty includes more than water, however; oil and gas were discovered here in the 1920s, and today there are more than 20,000 oil and 4,000 natural-gas wells in the area. Pumping jacks cover the dunes and fields to the east. The Navajo Oil Refinery, alongside
U.S. 285, is a major employer for this city of about 12,000.
A Federal Law Enforcement Training Center took over the abandoned campus of a private liberal arts college here in 1989, and thousands of law-enforcement employees from agencies such as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Customs Service now train at its driving and shooting ranges. Other than grabbing a meal, there isn't a great deal to do here. On football-season Fridays you can't miss the array of orange banners and bulldog emblems touting the local high school team, the Bulldogs, in this highly sports-conscious town.
Artesia is a quick 36-mi drive north of Carlsbad. The inns near Carlsbad Caverns National Park, as well as the restaurants, are arguably good reasons to make the drive. They stand out as gems in a little town that doesn't generally draw much tourism and a region that is short on gems.