EXPLORE

What else to do in the neighborhood

Especially as summer temperatures continue to creep up, Navajo Lake State Park provides a cool — and nearby — escape from the heat.

How to get there: From Farmington, there are two ways to get to Navajo Lake.

Through Bloomfield : Take U.S. Highway 64 for 22 miles to N.M. Highway 511. Turn left toward Navajo Dam and continue for 14 miles. Then, follow N.M. Highway 511 to N.M. Highway 539, which will lead you to the lake.

Through Aztec : Head west on Main Street to N.M. Highway 173 East/Navajo Dam Road about 16 miles from Farmington. Stay on Navajo Dam Road for 24 miles and then turn left onto N.M. Highway 511 and follow the signs to the lake.

NAVAJO LAKE STATE PARK — The summer heat has hit, and Four Corners residents are looking for ways to cool off. Luckily, Farmington is only 40 miles from Navajo Lake State Park. The park is a popular place for people around the state in the summer, as well as throughout the year.

Navajo Lake has 150 miles of public shoreline, which makes it the second largest lake in the state. Right now, it contains the most water of any lake in the state, due to drought conditions.

Elephant Butte Lake has the most surface area of any lake in the state, but its water levels this year are extremely low. Navajo Lake's water levels are higher this year than they were last year, according to Jackie Schneider, operations manager at the marina at Navajo Lake.

Navajo Lake State Park, pictured here on Sunday, is the second largest lake in New Mexico.
Navajo Lake State Park, pictured here on Sunday, is the second largest lake in New Mexico.

"Water level has come up a lot since last year," Schneider said. "We are still low, and probably only about 30 feet low, but last year we were 65 to 70 feet low."

Schneider says this summer's rainfall and the winter runoff have helped with water levels.

Higher water levels certainly help out summer recreation. The more water in a lake, the more fun people can have on it — whether it's fishing, boating, kayaking or swimming.

But Navajo Lake State Park has a lot more than boating to offer. The park has more than 200 campsites, as well as primitive beach camping. It also has some of the best fishing in the Four Corners on Navajo Lake, as well as below the dam on the Quality Waters of the San Juan River. Plus, there are miles of hiking and biking trails around the lake and river.

Schneider says the summer months are definitely the park's busiest times at the marina. Staff at the marina rent out equipment and a few boats for those who do not have their own.

"If you can't really afford to rent a boat, the paddleboards and kayaks are something you can do for a few hours, and they've been a really big hit this summer," Schneider said. "Swimming and floating is also really big on the lake."

WHAT TO DO NEARBY

Fishing at Quality Waters

Fly-fishing tends to be very popular on a 4.25-mile section at the base of the Navajo Dam, which is referred to as Quality Waters. People come from afar to fish in this area, where conditions for fishing are perfect year-round.

Go camping

Seven campgrounds and 244 camping sites are associated with Navajo State Park. Primitive beach camping is allowed around the lake. Eight sites have full hookups, 56 sites have water and electricity and 41 sites have only electricity.

Try out some water sports

Boating, jet skiing, wake boarding, kayaking and paddle boarding are a hit on the lake. Visit Navajo Lake Marina for info on renting equipment. Go to navajomarina.com. San Juan College also rents gear. Call 505-566-3221.

Check out a few of the trails

There are 4.4 miles of trails surrounding Navajo Lake State Park and the river below the dam. The San Juan River trails provide a lovely backdrop for hiking or biking. To access the trail mail, go to bit.ly/NavajoLakeTrails.

On Sunday, Elmo Montoya, of Farmington, and his family spent their weekend at the lake. Montoya says Navajo Lake is the place to be this summer, and it's his favorite water source to play in because it is so close to Farmington. All of his family lives nearby, so Montoya says he just has to make a phone call to get everyone together at the lake. They bring their boat, jet skis and camping gear, and everyone has a great time.

"Nowadays, everybody is stuck on their phone texting and what not, and they don't even talk no more. Coming out to the lake is nice because you can't bring your phone out here on the water," Montoya said.

His nephew, Manuel Montoya, was out with him on a jet ski. The boy said his favorite part of the lake is spending time with his family.

Navajo Dam was built from 1958 to 1962 by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for flood control, recreation, sediment control and to provide water to the Navajo Indian Irrigation Project, according to the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources.

The dam traps water from the San Juan, Piedra and Los Pinos rivers and Sambrito and La Jara creeks. When full, the reservoir covers 15,590 acres.

Next month's Bucket List item: In August, we will explore Hovenweep National Monument, which the National Park Service established in 1923. It spans land in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. The monument was built by ancestral Puebloans and dates back more than 10,000 years old.

Jaclyn Waggoner covers the outdoors for The Daily Times. She can be reached at jaclynkwags@gmail.com.