We weren’t expecting much when we made the short drive from Truth or Consequences up to Elephant Butte Lake State Park. Visiting in December just days after New Mexico had been hit by a huge blizzard, we were expecting a cold park but not much else.
After paying the $5 entry fee and parking our car down by the water, we stepped outside to enjoy the park. We were blown away by how beautiful and serene everything was.
The centerpiece of the park is Elephant Butte Reservoir, but there are also beautiful mountains and plateaus out in the distance. And while there isn’t much to do in the wintertime except stroll around, the summer brings a whole slew of recreational activities.
About Elephant Butte Lake State Park
Many people might never have even heard of Elephant Butte State Park since it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere in the state of New Mexico. We stopped by after it was recommended to us by a local in the nearby town of Truth or Consequences that we were staying in. After doing a little research, we were surprised by how awesome this park really is.
Elephant Butte Lake State Park is the largest state park in the state of New Mexico. The reservoir within the park is also the largest in the state of New Mexico, clocking in at 36,000 acres with over 200 miles of shoreline.
Located just south of the main park area is Elephant Butte Dam, a concrete gravity dam. This massive damn began construction in 1911, finishing in 1916 and still maintains the reservoir today, used primarily for agriculture. We didn’t get a chance to see the dam when we were visiting, but we’ll know for next time!
At 4,500 feet in elevation, this park can definitely get a little chilly during the winter. We had no idea that we were this high up until discovering the elevation on the internet after we had already left New Mexico. We didn’t feel the elevation, but we have spent a good amount of time at altitude. If you feel light-headed, be sure to take it easy and drink a lot of water.
The reservoir may be the largest in the state of New Mexico, but it will be much smaller if you go during the winter. This is because–as explained to us by a local–the reservoir is partially drained during the winter and the water is sent to western Texas. In the summer, Texas returns the favor and the reservoir is refilled.
Elephant Butte reservoir isn’t your typical reservoir, because it is actually part of the Rio Grande River. The reservoir was constructed to as part of a power and irrigation project. Fishing is allowed, and the fish that populate the reservoir include striped bass, white bass, largemouth bass, crappie, walleye and catfish.
Recreation and Activities
During the summer, Elephant Butte Lake State Park is a whole new world. The lake comes to life with kayaks, jet skis, pontoons, sailboats, ski boats, cruisers, and houseboats. The park even plays host to a fourth of July fireworks celebration.
Camping is allowed in various areas of the park. We also read that there are RV hookups, so for those that are living the #vanlife there are amenities for you!
While were were there early on a Saturday morning in December, there weren’t really many people around but we did see a few people out walking dogs. I assume the entire park is dog-friendly, so this could be an amazing place to take your pooch for a stroll.
The entire state of New Mexico surprised us when we visited, and Elephant Butte Lake State Park was no exception. We were weren’t sure quite what to expect, and neither of us thought we would love New Mexico as much as we did. It is definitely a state that we will have to go back to explore!
We’d love to visit Elephant Butte Lake State Park again–hopefully during the summer months! It would be a blast to rent a boat and take it out on the beautiful reservoir.
Until next time, New Mexico.
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