Saturday, April 27, 2013

Elephant Butte Lake, an Oasis in the Desert

We're spending a few days at Elephant Butte Lake State Park, New Mexico's largest state park and reservoir. The water level is very low due to a prolonged, severe drought. We've heard that this park gets very, very busy because all water sports are allowed and we are in the middle of the desert, but right now it is fairly quiet.

There isn't a whole lot of hiking around here, but that's okay because the temps are in the 80's right now, a little warm for much hiking anyhow. Yesterday we spent the morning exploring the Western shore of the lake.

You can see Hans at the edge of the lake in the center of the photo.
I am taking this a good 100 yards up the slope and am not even at the
high water line...this lake is super low.

There are clusters of these slabs of stone along the shore.
Perhaps some kind of sandstone, they were very cement-like.
There are also clusters of these round ball-like rocks.
Due to the hot springs in the area, Hans surmised they might be bubbles formed
from sulphurous gasses escaping under water and then hardening.

Some of the tamarisk trees are in full bloom.

We happen to be camped in a campground (and glad we are so we can use our AC in the afternoon) but dispersed camping is allowed in this state park. Check out these amazing campsites people have landed at. Having seen the sand they drug their trailer over, I can't imagine how they are going to get back up to the road!

We drove to the North end of the lake and did some exploring where the Rio Grande river comes into the lake.

The Rio Grande river...the name seems too grand for the reality!

Birding was quite good at the lake, especially at the North end. We saw a few birds that were new to us including White Faced Ibis, American Avocet (in their summer colors) and Canada Geese (I figured they would have already headed North, guess those recent storms affected travel). We also saw a coyote roaming the open grassland.

Canada Geese watching us closely...

It's nice to spend a few days relaxing near a body of water. We've got a wide variety of birds at our bird feeders at camp, making just hanging out at home a pleasant, low-key way to spend an afternoon.


  1. That poor lake is in sad shape! I wonder if it will ever come back. I did like the bubble type rocks...interesting. Sounds like a good theory Hans has.

    Enjoy your visit to the area.

  2. I have heard a lot about this area from many of you. One day we will have to explore this area, hopefully before the drought does any further damage.

  3. Can't believe how low that water is!! Totally different from our visit there a few years back. If you have the time head over to see the Ghost Towns around the area. There are lots of them:
    And of course, go get some chili's in Hatch!!