El Vado Lake, New Mexico, USA

Also known as:  El Vado Reservoir

Welcome to the ultimate guide to El Vado Lake — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

Topics we cover in this article:

Looking for El Vado Lake cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore our comprehensive list of favorite travel partners.

All About El Vado Lake

El Vado Lake, situated in New Mexico’s northern mountains, is located west of Tierra Amarilla in Rio Arriba Counnty. Surrounded by acres of mixed juniper and sandstone formations, El Vado Lake is a delightful getaway. The lake stretches five miles, and has approximately 12 miles of shoreline. Recreational activities include boating, swimming, waterskiing, jet skiing, sailing, windsurfing and fishing.

El Vado Lake was formed by impounding the waters form the Chama and Brazos Rivers which flow from the San Juan Mountain Range. The construction of El Vado Reservoir began in 1933, and its original purpose was to provide conservation storage for irrigation use on the middle Rio Grande lands. The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District completed the dam in 1935, and the dam was updated and modified in later years by the Bureau of Reclamation which now controls the dam. El Vado Dam is steel and earth- filled and is one of the few dams in the world to incorporate a metal face to impound water.

Boating and water skiing are favorite pastimes on El Vado Lake. Unlike some of the other nearby likes, El Vado is not designated as a no-wake lake. However, El Vado does offer a large area for flat-water paddlers. That way kayakers or canoers can enjoy their time at the lake as well as other boaters. There is a boat ramp located at the north end of the lake via State 95. In addition to boating, fishing is very popular at El Vado Lake. Largemouth bass, rainbow trout, brown trout, lake trout, bluegill and kokanee salmon are some of the fish anglers enjoy catching. El Vado Lake is stocked annually with two-inch rainbow fry by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Visitors need a state fishing license and a trout stamp.

Visitors can enjoy five different campgrounds at El Vado Lake State Park. Three of the five campgrounds are developed and the other two are primitive. There is a five and a half mile scenic trail along the Rio Chama that connects El Vado Lake with the nearby Heron Lake. Nature watchers may enjoy viewing red-tailed hawks and ospreys or bald eagles in the winter. The State Park is managed by the New Mexico Division of Parks and Recreation under agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation.

Winter or summer there is something for everyone at EL Vado Lake. When temperatures begin to rise during the summer months, you can expect El Vado Lake to be full of water skiers and pleasure boats and watercrafts of all kinds. When cooler months arrive, hunters and anglers become prominent around the lake. Visitors will have a fun and relaxing time no matter when they visit.

Things to Do at El Vado Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Hunting
  • Birding
  • State Park

Fish Species Found at El Vado Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Brown Trout
  • Kokanee Salmon
  • Lake Trout
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Sunfish
  • Trout

Find Places to Stay at El Vado Lake

If you’re considering a El Vado Lake lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a El Vado Lake Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite El Vado Lake lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • Booking.com – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, Booking.com connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • Hotels.com – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, Hotels.com is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

El Vado Lake Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: US Bureau of Reclamation

Surface Area: 3,200 acres

Shoreline Length: 12 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 6,901 feet

Maximum Depth: 170 feet

Water Volume: 195,440 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1935

Drainage Area: 492 sq. miles

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

Shop El Vado Lake Gifts

Custom Lake Tumblers

Captain / First Mate Custom 20 oz Tumbler

Custom Lake T Shirt

Personalized My Boat My Rules Unisex T-Shirt

Custom Lake Coffee Mug - On Lake Time

On Lake Time Custom Coffee Mug – 11oz or 15oz


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