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Northwest N.M. is the place to go to beat the heat

With the weather heating up across the state, it’s time to start looking for some relief. And few areas of the state offer a better selection of sites like the New Mexico State Parks in the northwest region.

Although fire restrictions have shut down popular Fenton Lake within the Santa Fe National Forest, the area remains a haven for those looking to escape the blooming heat as each of the profiled parks contain a lake. This is the third in a continuing series examining New Mexico State Parks.


Heron Lake State Park

A no-wake lake, Heron Lake has suffered of late from lower water levels, Kolls said. But that hasn’t hindered the abundance of wildlife that flourish in the area, she said. The lake is located west of Tierra Amarilla, northwest of Santa Fe.

“There is so much wildlife and things to see in that park,” she said. “There are some great trails. I think it’s underutilized. There are tons of deer, birds. Visitors go to the park with a huge bird list. At the visitors center, people add on to as they see additional birds in the park.”

And the hike between Heron and El Vado lakes is not to be missed, Kolls added.

“It’s for people who are avid hikers; that would be a great trail for them to hike,” she said. “It’s not for casual hikers but for true people that hike and know what they’re doing. It’s beautiful. You can literally hike from one park to the other park, one way during the day would be great. You’re hiking along the Rio Chama, down in a valley with the river. It’s such a beautiful canyon to hike through.”

Navajo Lake State Park

In a continuing effort to introduce more visitors to life on the water, the concessionaires at Navajo Lake Marina are sponsoring the first Raft-Up party June 23 from noon to 5 p.m. The park is west of Chama near the Colorado border.

The Navajo Lake Marina will host a raft-up on June 23. (SOURCE: Navajo Dam Enterprises)

The idea, said concessionaire Jarrett Johnson, is to create a fun atmosphere by linking as many boats together as possible, creating an island-like effect. Johnson, president of Navajo Dam enterprises, said two bands have already been booked for the event, with more on the way.

“We want people to come out and play on the lake,” he said. “A lot of the people there will be have own boats and you can pull your boat right up onto the beach and we’ll have a designated swimming area.”

It is part of an ongoing quest to attract more visitors, Johnson said, adding his company has added about $5 million in improvements in the last five years.

“We are trying to create a destination within itself for non-boater boaters,” he said. “We’ve added a lot of rental fleet with kayaks, paddle boats, hydro bikes, splash pads, bumper boats and we built a new fishing hole open to the public and lined with Christmas trees for fish habitat. We’re really trying to create a destination that will facilitate the next generation of boaters.”

The lake actually has two marinas. The Sims Marina, about a half-hour drive away on the other side of the lake, is actually quieter and easier to get a boat in the water, said Cheryl Kolls, northwest region manager.

Bluewater Lake State Park

A new visitors center was recently completed at the park, complete with high-tech, touch-screen information boards, Kolls said. Bluewater is located south of Interstate 40 between Grants and Gallup.

“Bluewater is great for fishing, shoreline fishing,” she said. “You can dry camp on the shore, and there’s a campground with a brand new dump station put in. There’s a little trail behind the dam that goes into the canyon and there are wild horses in the campground periodically, but please stay away from them.”

Years ago when the lake was stocked with muskie to help rid it of a goldfish problem, the muskies took off, making it one of the top sites to catch the challenging quarry.

A view of the sun setting over El Vado Lake. (SOURCE: The New Mexico State Parks)

“Fishing is the Bluewater,” Kolls said. “Fishing out of a boat or on shoreline. It’s one of the easiest parks in the region to fish off of the shoreline and a big draw is the muskie. Now we have people coming from all over the country to fish for these fish.”

El Vado Lake State Park

Non-motorized water sports are popular at El Vado, Kolls said, just because of its location west of Tierra Amarilla, northwest of Santa Fe.

“Its shoreline is a little more difficult but there are a few places you can get to,” she said. “It’s got a real canyon feel to it. There are a couple of great campgrounds, but you don’t have the number of people like at a larger lake but you still have availability to do water sports.”