New Mexico’s El Vado Lake State Park

Located in the northern mountains of New Mexico El Vado Lake State Park offers water-skiing, winter sports, boating, fishing, and both primitive and developed campsites. Patrons have access to a five and a half mile scenic trail which runs parallel to the Rio Chama and connects El Vado to the beautiful Lake Heron. This lake is situated in the northwestern region of the New Mexico and lies just southwest of Highway 84/285 junction.


The town of El Vado came into existence in the early twentieth century, some time before the lake was created. The town of El Vado was a traditional southwest lumber and railroad town. A little known fact is that it was once the largest such town in the country.

The El Vado Lake State Park features a visitor’s center where maps and park information can be obtained. Restrooms and showers are available for visitors, as well as a small cafe. If guests choose, they can participate in a guided tour of the park, hosted by an official park ranger. The elevation of El Vado Lake is 6,900 feet, and the actual park area features over 700 scenic acres for guest’s enjoyment.

General Recreation Information

Families without a specific activity in mind should consider picnicking at the lake while deciding on the activities in which they may wish to participate. The beautiful, scenic trail along the Rio Chama and close-bye Heron Lake provide a myriad of enjoyable activities form which to choose. Activities on the lake itself include fishing, boating, sailing, and water-skiing. One can rent water skis from the visitor’s center, however, these are available on a first come first serve basis. Unique quiet coves surrounding the lake make an excellent place to catch salmon, kokanee, and trout. The main boat ramp is generally opened throughout the year, although limited hours may be featured during the winter months due to the fact that days are shorter this time of year. The north boat ramp is typically opened only through spring and summer, however, all these times and conditions are subject to change. The lakes surface is over 3000 acres, making it ideal for all water sports.


Bird Watching Throughout the Park

Bird lovers descend on the park each year, as it is one of the few areas of the country in which unique and rarer type birds can be seen. The areas surrounding the lake are a primary gathering spot for bald eagles, especially during the winter season. Other birds frequently seen are the water ouzels, red tailed hawk, and the celebrated osprey.

Camping in El Vado Lake State Park

The park’s campground features over 50 sites, and developed or primitive campsites can be chosen. Certain of the sites offer electric hookup, restrooms, showers, and an RV dump station for those traveling in contained units. One must keep in mind that if a primitive campsite is selected, no special facilities are included other than the cleared camping area. However, some of these sites may include, chemical toilets, garbage cans, and parking. If a developed site is selected, additional features such as sewage and electrical hookups are provided.


Horseback Riding and Hiking

Many families choose to participate in horseback riding throughout the park, as the park’s trails are ideal for this activity. However, one should keep with a park ranger or the park’s superintendent in order to be sure of hours of operation for this activity. Hiking is an extremely popular attraction in El Vado State Park, due to the rugged but manageable terrains and panoramic scenery. One can participate in hiking year round, but it is essential to consider the temperature and dress accordingly.



The average annual precipitation of the overall park area is 20.95 inches. In the summer season, visitor’s can expect temperatures that range from approximately 43 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit, with winter temperatures falling between 9 to 38 degrees.

El Vado Lake State Park is about 18 miles southwest of Tierra Amarilla, NM, and the best way into the park from any direction is New Mexico’s route 112.

One Response to New Mexico’s El Vado Lake State Park

  1. Monica says:

    Finally something interesting that’s not like every other travel article out there.

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