Long hot summer days call for a cool dip in the water and despite its high desert landscape, New Mexico offers a surprising number of spots to enjoy a refreshing swim.
Of the 35 state parks scattered throughout the state, many have lakes that allow swimming and a variety of other water activities like boating and fishing. All of the state parks have camping facilities; some even have wi-fi access available.
The State Parks Division website shows a list of the parks, their locations and amenities. Fees range from $8 per night for primitive sites with cleared camp spots but little else. Sites with trash cans, chemical toilets and a water source are $10 per night. Those with electric or sewage hookups suitable for RVs cost from $14 to $18 per night. It’s possible to make reservations online at specific state park campgrounds based on leisure interests and accommodation needs.
Here is a sampling of some of the lakes around the state:
⋄ Elephant Butte Lake, just east of Interstate 25 a few miles north of the town of Truth or Consequences, is the state’s largest state park. It has sandy beaches for swimming and plenty of space for boating with kayaks, jet skis, sailboats, pontoons, cruisers and houseboats. Life jackets must be worn when boating.
There are also picnic areas, playgrounds and campsites with electric and water hook-ups for RVs.
⋄ Conchas Lake near Tucumcari in eastern New Mexico is one of the state’s larger bodies of water, with extensive boating, swimming, hiking and birding opportunities. Boating and swimming is also possible at Santa Rosa Lake a few miles north of the town of Santa Rosa. Horse lovers will find places to ride and they and their animals can stay at the nearby Los Tanos Campground.
The Blue Hole, a deep spring-fed lake just outside Santa Rosa, is popular for swimming and scuba diving.
⋄ Farther south, near Roswell, Bottomless Lakes State Park has a series of sinkhole lakes ranging from 17 feet to 90 feet deep. Swimming, kayaking and canoeing is allowed in the largest lake. There is a campground suitable for RVs, picnic areas and a playground.
⋄ Bluewater Lake, about 25 miles west of Grants, offers camping, hiking, birding, horseback riding and fishing. There is boarding for horses outside the park, across from the main gate.
⋄ In northwestern New Mexico, El Vado Lake has beaches, boat docks and ramps. Located about a 3½-hour drive from Albuquerque, it is popular for boating, swimming, jet skiing, windsurfing, sailing and fishing. Not far from El Vado Lake is Heron Lake, which is popular for swimming, sailing, windsurfing, paddle sports and fishing.
Enjoy a soak
In addition to the lakes, there are many hot springs where visitors can soak in the warm mineral rich water. Several of them are located near campsites. Some of them can only be accessed on foot after an energetic hike. At some hot springs clothing is optional.
Here are some of the hot springs:
• About a 2-hour drive northwest of Albuquerque, in the Jemez Mountains, the Spence, McCauley and San Antonio hot springs are within a few miles of campgrounds at Fenton Lake, Jemez Falls and along N.M. 4.
• Faywood Springs, in southeastern New Mexico between Deming and Silver City, has several outdoor public and private soaking pools. There are tent sites for camping, pull through RV sites with full hook-ups, and private cabins for overnight lodging accommodations.
• San Francisco Hot Springs is near Glenwood about 60 miles northwest of Silver City. Camping is available at Cottonwood campground farther north on U.S. 180 and at Sundial Springs Campground & Hot Springs near Glenwood, which has camping and RV facilities. The latter requires 24-hour notice to access; call 575-539-2712.