El Vado Lake State Park Boating
2,100-acre to 3,200-acre lake in a spectacular setting on the Chama River at an altitude of close to 7,000 feet. Maximum depth is about 170 feet when full. Boaters can camp out overlooking the lake and at a number of scenic primitive sites on both the north penninsula and another on the west side of the lake. Popular for mid season water sports after the water warms along the upper portions of the lake on both the east and west sides of the penninsula.
Directions: About 17 miles west of Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico. Approximately 3.5 hours from Albuquerque and 166 miles. From Albuquerque take I-25 North to Exit 159 BC at Santa Fe. Merge onto US-285 N/ US -84 N via Exit 282. and continue thru Santa Fe and north to Espanola for 28 miles. In Espanola turn left onto US-285 N/ US -84 N. Continue to follow US-84 N for about 64 miles into and just past Tierra Amarilla. Turn sharp left onto NM 112 and travel about 15 miles southwest of Tierra Amarilla to the park entrance road. Follow the winding road to the park entrance and watch for sharp turns in the road.
The north side of the lake also has a boat ramp entrance to North El Vado Lake. Follow the directions to Heron Lake State Park and continue west on NM 95 to the left turnoff before the cattleguard crossing the road to the Stone House Lodge.
Latitude = 36.6571, Longitude = -106.7442 Lat = 36 degrees, 39.4 minutes North Long = 106 degrees, 44.7 minutes West
Park Entrance Road:
Latitude = 36.5951, Longitude = -106.7013
Lat = 36 degrees, 35.7 minutes North Long = 106 degrees, 42.1 minutes West
Park Dock and Main Boat Ramp:
Latitude = 36.6097, Longitude = -106.7412
Lat = 36 degrees, 36.6 minutes North Long = 106 degrees, 44.5 minutes West
Pinon Beach Campground Entrance
Latitude = 36.6141, Longitude = -106.7378
Lat = 36 degrees, 36.8 minutes North Long = 106 degrees, 44.3 minutes West
Latitude = 36.6068, Longitude = -106.7411
Lat = 36 degrees, 36.4 minutes North Long = 106 degrees, 44.5 minutes West
Pinon Beach Campground Cove
Latitude = 36.6093, Longitude = -106.7351
Lat = 36 degrees, 36.6 minutes North Long = 106 degrees, 44.1 minutes West
Shale Point Beach
Latitude = 36.6200, Longitude = -106.7397
Lat = 36 degrees, 37.2 minutes North Long = 106 degrees, 44.4 minutes West
El Vado Lake Dam:
Latitude = 36.5949, Longitude = -106.7339
Lat = 36 degrees, 35.7 minutes North Long = 106 degrees, 44.0 minutes West
Latitude = 36.5946, Longitude = -106.7499
Lat = 36 degrees, 35.7 minutes North Long = 106 degrees, 45.0 minutes West
Lat = 36 degrees, 36 minutes 28 seconds North Long = 106 degrees, 44 minutes 5 seconds West
Latitude = 36.6057, Longitude = -106.7571
Lat = 36 degrees, 36.3 minutes North Long = 106 degrees, 45.4 minutes West
North El Vado Boat Ramp Road Entrance
Latitude = 36.6571, Longitude = -106.7442
Lat = 36 degrees, 39.4 minutes North Long = 106 degrees, 44.7 minutes West
No Wake Zone North El Vado Boat Ramp/E. Chama River Arm:
Latitude = 36.6483, Longitude = -106.7428
Lat = 36 degrees, 38.9 minutes North Long = 106 degrees, 44.6 minutes West
Latitude = 36.6461, Longitude = -106.7655
Lat = 36 degrees, 38.8 minutes North Long = 106 degrees, 45.9 minutes West
Peninsula Point Shallows:
Latitude = 36.6114, Longitude = -106.7535
Lat = 36 degrees, 36.7 minutes North Long = 106 degrees, 45.2 minutes West
Boating, swimming, waterskiing, jetskiing, sailing, windsurfing and fishing.
Prepared and experienced whitewater paddlesport kayakers and rafters can go down the scenic Rio Chama entering Heron and El Vado Lakes on the EL Puente Run.
Beginner kayakers and canoeists can also paddle up the Rio Chama during excellent boating conditions in a “No Wake” area extending up the scenic canyon for a few miles. Primitive camping sites exist up the canyon. Access is from the north El Vado Ramp 2 miles west on NM 95 from Heron Lake State Park.
- Excellent Boating From 6,908 feet in elevation down to 6,862 feet in elevation
( 234,000 acre-feet down to 84,000 acre-feet storage) 3,332 surface acres down to 1,858 surface acres
- Good Boating From 6,862 feet in elevation down to 6,838 feet in elevation ( 94,000 acre-feet down to 56,000 acre-feet storage) 1,858 surface acres down to 1,328 surface acres
- Fair Boating From 6,838 in elevation down to 6,824 feet in elevation ( 56,000 acre-feet down to 35,333 acre-feet storage) 1,328 surface acres down to 1,052 surface acres
- Ramp and Lake Conditions
- North El Vado Ramp accessed off NM 95 : Top Elevation @ 6,911 Ft. Bottom Elevation @ 6,899 Ft.
- Main Ramp accessed just past the main park office : Top Elevation @ 6,928 Ft. Bottom Elevation @ 6,820 Ft.
- At the North end of the lake. One (1) 8’ x 40’ Courtesy Dock with concrete flooring.
- Just Southwest of the Park Office. One (1) 8’ x 40’ Courtesy Dock with concrete flooring.
Wind Warning Lights:
One at South Point up on the hill.
West and Southwest. Pay attention to mid-summer storms arriving from the north. They can be fast moving and can generate 3-4′ waves due to the reach of the lake.
Designated as a coldwater fishery. Largemouth bass, bluegill, Rainbow trout, brown trout, lake trout and kokanee salmon. Salmon snagging in the fall. At approximately 6,838′ there becomes a fish kill issue with drawdown release of water through the dam works.
Restricted and governed under the Small Game and Waterfowl Proclamation of the Game and Fish Department. Check the Proclamation annually for any changes. Check with the park manager for restricted areas.
Special Boating Restrictions or Considerations:
There is a “Keep Out Zone” marked with regulatory buoys just north of the Launch Ramp area that contains the water supply pump line for the park. Boaters entering the area will be cited.
The Rio Chama above the North Launch Ramp is an entire “No Wake” Zone enforced both for safety (Narrow Channel) and environmental considerations. Boaters violating the no wake rule will be cited.
Watersports operators need to observe the 150′ distance rule from all shorelines when operating for both the safety of the persons being towed and for the safety of shoreline activities.
The lakes’s elevation increases your chances of severe sunburns. Use sunscreen and reapply during the day.
- 6,875 ft. – Hazards aground at North MacDonald Point
- 6,851 ft. – Buoys along South Pinon Beach go aground.
- 6,833 ft. – Chama River channel gets very pronounced
6,819 ft. Top of the trash rack at dam is about 10 ft below surface.
East side channel is at depth of 12 ft Westside and Sand’s Cove are not navigable.
- 6,797 ft. – Approx. 1,700 surface acres remain. South Boat Ramp closed to protect pump structure.
- 6,785 ft. – The water level becomes low enough to warrant no motorboating. Lake water conditions show shoreline mud flats before that level making it difficult for paddlecraft access.
Gas cannot be purchased at El Vado Ranch. Closest fuel is a 5 mile round trip from the park to Tierra Amarilla. If stations are closed the only other close alternative will be in Chama, New Mexico.
Recreation Areas Managed By:
New Mexico State Parks
Dam operations by the US Bureau of Reclamation. Primitive camping around the lake at the following non-private areas….
Go to Boating Waters