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Elephant Butte Lake State Park Boating

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Elephant Butte Lake State Park (Click Here for Park Page)

Description: 40,000-surface acre lake on the Rio Grande formed by a dam created in 1916. Hundreds of miles of shoreline with a depth of 165 feet.  When lake level is at capacity the lake is up to 40 miles long with an average width of about 1.5 miles. There are three marinas, swimming is popular along many of the sandy   beaches but there are no lifeguard patrolled beaches. Coves, islands and sheltered areas on the east side of the lake are popular primitive boat camping and overnight mooring destinations. The Damsite has cabins, a marina and a restaurant originally built by the CCC of native rock. Below the Dam there is State Park parkingand camping for the occasional Rio Grande Canoe or Kayak Run to Caballo Lake State Park. The lake is recognized as the best managed fisheries in the Southwest. It is also part of the Geronomo Trail Scenic Byway and is on the way to the New Mexico’s Spaceport currently under construction.

Directions: About 75 miles north of Las Cruces. Located about 5 miles north of the town of Truth or Consequences.  From Albuquerque it will be a drive of about 155 miles south on Interstate 25 with a travel time of about 2 1/2 to 3 hours towing a boat. (From Santa Fe it is 211 miles) 

Below are the two drive options from Albuquerque depending on your visiting the northern end of the park and fishing the Narrows or going to the southern main park areas.

NORTHERN ACCESS: Drive on I-25 South from Albuquerque through the Rio Grande Valley about 129 miles south and take the first exit to the north end of the lake, the Monticello ramp (Exit 89).

The access road to the South Monticello campground and boat ramp has been paved in 2008.  The South Monticello area features a 50-site campground with full hookups in a scenic spot that overlooks the lake; a state-of-the-art, solar-powered comfort station; and a massive, ten-lane wide boat ramp that is 1,000 feet long. 

SOUTHERN ACCESS: Drive on I-25 South from Albuquerque through the Rio Grande Valley about 145 miles to Exit 83 for NM-181 / NM-195. Turn left at the end of the exit ramp and go under the freeway on NM-181 / US-85 for about 1/2 mile. Turn left onto NM-195. NM-195 is a bit twisty and with soft shoulders in the first few miles so watch your trailering and speed limits. This road will be followed into the town of Elephant Butte (which has boat storage locations and marine repair shops), and through the town for just about a distance of 7.5 miles to the State Park Main Entrance on your left.

GPS Coordinates:

Not to be used for navigation purposes, general information only.

Lyons Beach-

Latitude = 33.1881, Longitude = -107.1974

Lat    = 33 degrees,   11.3 minutes  North Long = 107 degrees,   11.8 minutes   West

Lat    = 33 degrees,  11 minutes, 17 seconds      Long = 107 degrees, 11 minutes, 50 seconds


State Park Lake Map with General Landmarks. Other maps on web or sporting goods stores


Fish-n-Map New Mexico Maps

Water Sports:

Boating, swimming, waterskiing, jetskiing, sailing (Sailboat “Mast-up” facility and dry land sailboat storage on site.

Motor and sail boating enjoyed year around.  Water skiing, sail boarding and jet skiing popular from April through September.  Very popular marina culture from May to Labor Day. 

Paddlecraft use is popular and ideal during the Fall all the way up to November. Exploration on the east side of the lake and camping on the islands and points is fantastic.

Current Conditions:

Lake Elevation

                Click on the link above and compare the current elevation to the elevations below.

Excellent Boating:       From 4,407 feet in elevation down to 4,339 feet in elevation

        (2,023,358 acre-feet down to 491,638 acre-feet in storage)

35,984 surface acres down to 12,859 surface acres

Good Boating:            From 4,339 feet in elevation down to 4,316 feet in elevation   (all marinas available)

        ( 491,638 acre-feet down to 243,307 acre-feet in storage)

12,859 surface acres down to 8,711 surface acres

Fair Boating:              From 4,316 feet in elevation down to 4,290 feet in elevation

        ( 243,307 acre-feet down to 76,221 acre-feet in storage)

8,711 surface acres down to 4,171 surface acres

Congested Boating:     From 4,290 feet in elevation down to below 4,280 feet in elevation

         ( 76,221 acre-feet down to below 42,561 acre-feet in storage)

4,171 surface acres down to 2,562 surface acres

In 1971-1973, the lake had only about 32,000 acre-ft of water stored in the lake and an elevation below 4,280 Ft. but had 2 million visitors for the year…in short, the Butte is the place to boat and have fun no matter what the water level.

Marinas move at the following approximate water levels:

  • Marina Del Sur  4,283′                            
  • Dam Site         4,288′
  • Rock Canyon    4,295′                                  
River Running:

River Running: Below the Dam at Elephant Butte Lake (Lat    = 33 degrees,   8.9 minutes   North    Long = 107 degrees,   12.4 minutes   West) there is State Park parking for the start of the seasonal Rio Grande River canoe or kayak run to just below Willamsburg east off State Road 187 (Lat    = 33 degrees,   6.2 minutes   North            Long = 107 degrees,   17.6 minutes   West)  or to the north end of Caballo Lake State Park. (Check with park managers for best flows and projections). Park day use entrance fee payment is good for the day.  It’s a great run of 10-12 miles depending upon takeout and is totally moving flat water except for a couple of locations where low drop temporary dams are in to back up water in the T or C area to keep water pressure flows on the hot springs establishments. Canoes and Kayaks usually run these short whitewater drops once scouted. It is a popular activity during seasonal dam releases from the Dam and when Caballo Lake water level is high enough for easy takeout access as an alternative to the below Williamsburg takeout.  Takeout at Caballo lake is at K-cove or further depending upon paddling ability and late afternoon up lake winds. Rafts are generally not recommended to go all the way to Caballo Lake due to afternoon headwinds occuring on open water before any takeout points. Rafts also have to be be portaged over the two minor drop structures on the river by Truth or Consequences. Some of the Elephant Butte Lake marinas offer sit on top kayak rentals for the day. Sometimes a four and one-half mile canoe race is held in conjunction with the annual Truth or Consequences Fiesta usually the weekend preceeding Mothers’ Day.

Subjective Ratings

Low levels 800 cfs Class I-II

Good Level 1,700-2,500 cfs Class I-II

High levels 6000 cfs Class I-II

Boat Launching Ramps:


  • Marina Del Sur    Top elevation  4460 Ft.    Bottom elevation  4,268 Ft.   Main Entry to Park        660′ long by 150′ wide.  10 lanes concrete.  Two lanes only at lowest point  

          Lat    = 33 degrees,   10.9 minutes   North Long = 107 degrees,   12.1 minutes   West          

  • Rock Canyon       Top elevation  4411 Ft.    Bottom elevation  4,305 Ft.   West Side of Lake            1,190′ long by 60′ wide.  4 lanes concrete.  Two lanes only at lowest point.

Lat    = 33 degrees,   13.5 minutes   North Long = 107 degrees,   12.2 minutes   West

  • Dam Site             Top elevation 4,340′  Bottom elevation 4,295.  NM 51 from TorC (Road to Engle)       2 lanes old asphalt road and 165 feet of concrete ramp  

          Lat    = 33 degrees,   9.0 minutes   North Long = 107 degrees,   10.9 minutes   West

  • Monticello           Top elevation  4442 Ft.    Bottom elevation  4,325 Ft.   Off Exit 89, I-25        980′ long by 60′ wide.   6 lanes concrete.  Cost $575,000 in 2003.  Site of annual pumpkin roll.

Lat    = 33 degrees,   17.9 minutes   North Long = 107 degrees,   10.6 minutes   West


Five courtesy docks. One is at the Dam Site, two are at Marina Del Sur, one is at Rock Canyon and one at South Monticello.  These park operated docks are boat use only and do not allow fishing.  The Marinas allow for some evening and night fishing from their facilities.  Be sure to ask first.

  • Dam Site Recreation Area.  This marina and historical site is ¼ mile east past the dam on east side of the lake and has lodging and a resturant overlooking the lake and marina. The marina itself carries fuel, food, and fishing tackle. For more information, call (505) 894-2073 or visit           
  • Marina Del  Sur.  Marina Del Sur is located in Elephant Butte Lake State Park east of the Park Visitor Center and has moorage, fuel, food, and fishing tackle. Rentals include houseboats, ski boats, pontoons and kayaks. For more information, call (505) 744-5567 or visit                               
  • Rock Canyon Marina.    Rock Canyon Marina is temporarily in front of the Dam during low water periods and is next to the dam look out point. They Take exit 177 left, They are not open 24 hours this summer, only 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. They are NOT open for night fishing. They are not selling gasoline nor have any overnight parking. They have no rentals of boats, house boats or jetskis.
    The store has groceries, food, coffee and refreshments, and fishing tackle, live bait and licenses . For more information, call (505) 744-5462 or visit
  • Sports Adventure at Water’s Edge at 100 Long Point Road on the northwest side of the lake (May-October). Visitors can arrange to rent jet skis, pontoon boats and ski boats (May through October). Sports Adventure is located on Long Point at the water’s edge in the Elephant Butte State Park. Long Point is four miles north of the Valero gas station at the “Y” in the Town of Elephant Butte.  The store has groceries, food, fuel, fresh ground starbucks coffee, refreshments, fishing tackle, bait and fishing licenses.  Contact:Tim Worrell:

           (505) 744-5557 or (505) 937-9460 or (888)-736-8420

Wind Warning Lights:

Winds can cause treacherous waves on the lake. Flashing light are at Rattlesnake Island, Long Point, Lost Canyon, South Monticello indicating high wind levels.  Storm flags are flown at the visitor center.

Prevailing Winds:

Current Truth or Consequences airport conditions.  Mostly from the west including during heavy afternoon monsoon t-storms.  Shelter coves in some parts of the east side of the lake can be used, otherwise going and waiting out a storm on the west side of the lake is generally safe.  Occasionally a major summer storm will come out of the north and down the lake. Wind generated waves coming down the length of the lake can make loading without boat damage difficult.  Occasionally storms will last overnight.  Be prepared with emergency gear such as extra clothing, cell phone and rainwear on all trips on this lake. File a float plan.

Fish Species:

Designated warm water fishery.  Largemouth bass, catfish, walleye, flathead and channel catfish, crappie, black, smallmouth, white and striped bass and bluegill. 

Fishing Guides:

JR Desert Bass Fishing Guide Service (Harold McManus) 575-740-1175

Land of Enchantment Fishing Adventures (Frank Vilorio) 800-580-8992 575-744-4346

Rio Grande Guide Service (Billy Jack Miller, Jr) 575-740-0150/740-6138


Restricted and governed under the Small Game and Waterfowl Proclamation of the Game and Fish Department. Proclamation annually for any changes. Check with the park manager for restricted areas.


Special Boating Restrictions:


Servicing Boats:

Many repair shops in Truth or Consequences and the Town of Elephant Butte. Fueling stations at all marinas. Pumpouts at Dam Site, Marina Del Sur and Rock Canyon Marinas (Boaters are free)

Park headquarters is five miles north of Truth or Consequences via I-25 exit 83.

Recreation Areas Managed By:

New Mexico State Parks

Bird Viewing by Boat:
Land Status:

Prior to going out to primitive camp on the lake check land status and other regulations.


It is managed by the US Bureau of Reclamation

Go Back to Boating Waters