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Elephant Butte Lake water levels at lowest ever

LAS CRUCES – Elephant Butte Lake water levels are at their lowest ever, prompting many Memorial Day celebrants to swap their lake plans for other options.

Ivan White is skipping out on the lake this year, he said.

“We have more water in our bathtub,” he wrote on the Sun-News Facebook page.

Ashley Hearts and her family may trade City of Rocks State Park or the Faywood Hot Springs for Elephant Butte and its low water levels.

“We’ve seen that,” she wrote. “We decided to try out other locations this year.”

Many locals, however, are still kicking off the unofficial start to summer with a trip to the lake. People have already arrived at Elephant Butte Lake State Park to celebrate Memorial Day, snapping up spots at the lake’s beach and bringing campers, Jet Skis and boats along with them.

Spaces at the lake are already filling up, Noel Torres said. His chairs are out, he’s mixing some drinks and “life is good,” he said.

Kathy Hernandez skipped the Memorial Day weekend crowd, choosing to visit the lake last weekend instead.

“Water was nice and cool,” she said. “Yes, water level is low, but it’s still good for boating and jet skiing.”

The lake is slightly below last year’s water levels, at roughly 11 percent full, according to estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Last year, the lake was 15 percent full.

Monday’s water elevation will likely be at 4,314.52 feet, down a few tenths of a foot from current levels as the bureau will begin releasing water from Elephant Butte to Caballo Lake. A full lake has a water elevation of 4,407 feet and a surface area of 25,825 acres, said Bert Cortez, the bureau’s El Paso field division manager.

Despite the low levels, all four of the lake’s marinas are open, and there is “plenty” of water for visitors, said Rolf Hechler, regional manager for the New Mexico State Parks Division. He noted less water means more sand for beach-goers.

“There’s plenty of boatable water out there,” Hechler said. “We still have lots of room for crowds. … We just don’t have 30 miles of lake. We have 12 miles of lake.”

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