Farmington Lake opens to boat use

Hannah Grover

FARMINGTON – The overcast sky and occasional downpours of rain were not enough to keep four kayakers from San Juan College from heading out onto Lake Farmington for training Saturday.

While people have been enjoying fishing, walking and bird watching at the lake throughout the winter, Saturday was the first day boats like kayaks could be used on the reservoir.

Nonmotorized boats like kayaks, paddleboats and canoes, and boats with electric motors are allowed on the lake. Boats that rely on fuel like gasoline are not permitted.

Lake host Amanda Knowlton watched as the kayaks floated in a cove on Farmington Lake on Saturday. She said she has never kayaked before.

Ethan Martin, left, Eliza Thurston, Nathan Henkenius and Scott Burchfield break for lunch while kayaking on Saturday at Farmington Lake.

"It looks like fun," she said. "I would definitely look into renting (a kayak)."

Farmington Lake was closed to boat use for several years following a possible report of quagga mussels at nearby Navajo Lake, but it reopened to boats last year. To protect the lake from the invasive aquatic species that can clog pipes and damage infrastructure, the city of Farmington set up an inspection station at the entrance to the reservoir.

Several lake hosts staff the inspection station and look for signs of mussels. The inspection station is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily and charges a $5 fee for boaters to use the lake. People can also purchase a season pass for $50.

Knowlton said the hosts first ask boaters where they have taken the watercraft in the past.

Lake hosts wait to inspect boats on opening day for boating on Saturday at Farmington Lake.

While New Mexico is one of only a handful of states that have no known populations of quagga or zebra mussels, neighboring states have been dealing with the ramifications of the invasive species. Boats that have recently been on lakes like Lake Powell in southern Utah and northern Arizona could be infected with the mussels.

Because of that, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish released new rules about aquatic invasive species earlier this year. Those rules include mandatory inspections of boats at lakes with inspection stations, such as Farmington Lake.

Lake hosts such as Knowlton check to make sure the boats are dry. She said standing water in the boats is an indicator that it could be contaminated with mussels.

A muddy boat ramp welcomes visitors to opening day for boating on Saturday at Farmington Lake.

Cory Styron, the director of Farmington's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department, told The Daily Times in March that no mussels were found on any of the boats inspected last year.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.