El Vado Lake, New Mexico, USA

Also known as:  El Vado Reservoir

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at El Vado Lake.

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El Vado Lake visitor and community guide

Lake Locations: USA - Southwest - New Mexico - North-Central -

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.

Custom El Vado Lake house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

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

Best hotels and vacation rentals at El Vado Lake

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El Vado Lake photo gallery

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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

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