Brantley Lake, New Mexico, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Southwest - New Mexico - Southeast -

Also known as:  Brantley Reservior

No place in Southeast New Mexico represents water recreation like Brantley Lake. The relatively new reservoir has a state park along its shores, complete with campground, day use area and two boat ramps. The desert surroundings of Brantley Lake State Park feature sand dunes in constantly-changing patterns and colors ranging from white to tan to reddish-brown. The dunes add a stark contrast to the welcoming blues of the over-3000-acre Brantley Lake. The lake doesn’t get heavy usage because it is not visible from the main highway. Local residents of the small City of Carlsbad know Brantley Lake well, and many make the 20-minute drive to take advantage of swimming, boating and fishing on the beautiful pool.

Two day use areas offer plenty of water access to daily visitors. Both the Seven Rivers Day Use Area and the East Day Use Area are open from March to September and offer swim beaches, picnic grounds, rest rooms, playground and boat launching facilities. No water or electricity is available at the Seven Rivers Day Use Area, although trails leading from the area provide for primitive campsites. Although there are no marinas located on Brantley Lake, rentals can be arranged that will be delivered to the lake. Lake cruises can also be arranged with outside vendors. Many watercraft owners bring their own jet skis, water ski boats, sailboats, canoes and kayaks to launch on Brantley Lake on hot summer weekends. A wind warning light within sight of most of the lake warns boaters of advancing wind-related dangers. Park staff operate patrol boats on the reservoir. Several special events are coordinated by park rangers each year, including an Earth Day Shoreline Sweep, Kids Fishing Clinic, and Go Fly a Kite in March, along with Saturday night campground programs.

Brantley Lake offers a year-round campground that can accommodate up to 52 camping units. The campground is popular with RVers who appreciate a quiet and serene camping area. The wide open spaces display beautiful night skies. A Visitors Center is open from May to September on the entrance road. Extensive landscaping is in place to provide shade trees and wind shelter. A short interpretive trail and a longer 2.2-mile trail are already developed, with another short loop from the campground to the lakeshore and back. The Brantley Wildlife Management Area (WMA) lies both north of the lake and south of the dam. The entire Pecos River Valley is a major flyway for migrating birds and waterfowl, so a variety of waterfowl may be found on the lake any time of the year. The WMA also holds mule deer, coyote, jack rabbit, ground squirrel, kit and grey fox, porcupine, bobcat, raccoon and other desert dwellers.

Fishing is always a favorite at Brantley Lake. A fishing pier is provided, and the lake has been stocked with channel catfish, walleye,largemouth bass, crappie, white bass and bluegill. Recent testing has shown the fish carry higher than optimal levels of DDT, so eating the day’s catch is not advised. Water levels on the lake vary drastically, depending on the flow of the main incoming river, the Pecos. Other small creeks also feed the reservoir, which was intended partially to provide irrigation water and flood control.

The dam was constructed in 1988 to replace the upstream McMillan Dam which was in danger of failing. Due to seepage into the porous limestone under Lake McMillan, stored water was being lost as well as undermining the existing dam. The new Brantley Lake Dam was built on a different geological formation to the south where it would be less prone to seepage. The former Lake McMillan is now a part of the Brantley Wildlife Management Area. The former town of Seven Rivers, a major crossing on the Goodnight-Loving Trail and refuge of numerous outlaws, now lies under the waters of Brantley Lake.

The same kinds of limestone formations that lay under Lake McMillan also helped to create the many caverns located in the Carlsbad area. Famed Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located a few miles south of Brantley Lake, making the campground a fine choice as home base for touring the area. Interestingly, the huge caverns were not created entirely by water seepage through the limestone rock; they were also hollowed from below by percolating chemicals from petroleum reserves. The massive caverns are something no visitor to Southern New Mexico should miss seeing.

Those who prefer more modern accommodations will find plenty of lodging choices around the City of Carlsbad, with a number of large hotels, smaller motels, ranch stays and bed & breakfasts nearby. Besides offering a variety of restaurants and services, Carlsbad is home to several cultural facilities geared to entertaining and enlightening Carlsbad visitors. The oldest municipal museum in New Mexico, the Carlsbad Museum & Art Center, has been in operation since 1911. The facility houses an extensive collection of Native American ceramics, including Anasazi, Mesa Verde, early Mogollon and early historic period pottery. The museum’s art collection features the best of New Mexican artists. Other exhibits include cave photography and cultural exhibits. Local artisans’ shops offer a variety of unique gift items and ‘objet d’art’ souvenir pieces that will delight the casual collector.

Plan a visit to Brantley Lake and Southeast New Mexico today. There are many unusual sights to see and new vistas to experience. Most of all, come to see the star-filled night sky of the desert over Brantley Lake. You’ll find it remains among your favorite memories.

*Statistics for Brantley Lake are for the lake at full pool. The lake is seldom at that level.

Things to do at Brantley Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • National Park
  • Museum
  • Playground

Fish species found at Brantley Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye
  • White Bass

Brantley Lake Photo Gallery

Brantley Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Bureau of Reclamation

Surface Area: 4,000 acres

Shoreline Length: 12 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 3,233 feet

Water Volume: 335,054 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1988

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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