Reservoir will close to recreation for season next week


FARMINGTON — Lake Nighthorse had a rough first year after being opened to recreation, according to an official of the organization that operates and maintains the reservoir located just outside Durango, Colorado.

General manager Russ Howard of the Animas-La Plata Project Operations, Maintenance and Replacement Association gave an update on Lake Nighthorse to the San Juan County Water Commission on Wednesday.

Howard said smoke from the 416 Fire and decreased tourism due to the fire impacted the lake, but he said a lot of people still had the chance to enjoy the reservoir. Howard said every time he was at the reservoir, he saw visitors there taking part in recreational activities.

Lake Nighthorse is scheduled to close to recreation for the season on Wednesday. It will reopen in April.

The number of visitors that Lake Nighthorse drew during its first season has not been released.

In addition to providing such recreational opportunities as fishing, boating and paddleboarding, the reservoir stores water that can be used by various entities, including Farmington and Aztec.

The drought conditions this year led the city of Farmington to ask the San Juan Water Commission to request water from Lake Nighthorse. The Animas-La Plata Project received notice in late September that Farmington wanted 585 acre-feet of water released from the reservoir over four days starting in early October.

San Juan Water Commission executive director Aaron Chavez said at the time there was hardly any water in the Animas River.

The day before the release was to be made, Farmington sent word that it no longer needed the water to be released. The release was canceled as precipitation increased the level of the Animas River.

Howard said Lake Nighthorse is only 2 feet below full, which is likely due to evaporation.

“We are probably the only reservoir in this area that is considered to be full,” he said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at

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