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Title image: UC Region Colorado River Storage Project

Navajo Dam Recreation

Navajo Reservoir is located mainly in northern New Mexico with several miles extending into southern Colorado. In New Mexico, Navajo Reservoir is the second largest body of water next to Elephant Butte Reservoir. Three developed recreation areas in New Mexico comprise Navajo Lake State Park. The Pine River and Sims Mesa sites located on the lake near the dam include visitor centers, developed campgrounds, and full service marinas. The San Juan River site located on both sides of the river below Navajo Dam has wheelchair-accessible fishing facilities on the river, several hiking trails, seven day use areas, and a campground. This area is also well known for the excellent trout fishing available.

Navajo State Park is located near Arboles, Colorado 45 miles (72 kilometers) southeast of Durango at the confluence of the San Juan and Piedra Rivers at the upper end of the Reservoir. Visitors to this Colorado area recreation site can enjoy year-around camping and boating as well as picnic areas, a nature trail, and visitor center.

Both cold and warm water game fish species can be found in Navajo Reservoir. The cold water population includes brown and rainbow trout and kokanee salmon, which are found at lower depths during the warm summer months. Kokanee salmon can be caught legally during their autumn spawning run since they die soon afterward. Largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, and channel catfish can be found in the higher depth warmer water of the reservoir. Since the completion of the dam, millions of rainbow trout, salmon, and largemouth bass have been stocked in the reservoir. Prior to the dam’s completion, the waters of the San Juan River were often muddy and silt-filled. Today, the water below the dam runs cold and clear which is ideal habitat for brown, rainbow, and cutthroat trout.

photo: Fisherman in boat on Navajo Reservoir
Fishing on Navajo Reservoir

In addition to great fishing opportunities above and below the dam, the pinon-covered hills around Navajo Lake provide habitat for a variety of wildlife for visitors to enjoy including fox, deer, elk, beaver, muskrat, and raccoon. Wildlife viewing opportunities vary seasonally with a primary winter viewing attraction being bald eagles soaring overhead.

Hunters can take advantage of deer, elk, and duck hunting in the hills around the reservoir and along the marshy areas along the San Juan River below the dam. Improved management techniques such as reseeding with grasses and browse plants have made the area more attractive to animals and increased forage for mule deer, elk, and other wildlife. Large flocks of ducks are attracted to the lake and gather in some parts of the lake particularly in the fall. Hunters must obtain state licenses and observe all restrictions and regulations.

photo: Navajo Reservoir behind Navajo Damt
Navajo Reservoir behind Navajo Dam
photo: Water skiing on Navajo Reservoir
Water skiing on Navajo Reservoir
photo: Camping along reservoir shoreline
Camping along reservoir shoreline


Last updated: November 25, 2008