Fenton Lake, New Mexico, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Southwest - New Mexico - Northwest -

Tucked away in the Jemez Mountains of Northwest New Mexico, little Fenton Lake carries a large part of the recreational opportunities in the area. Less than 40 acres in size, Fenton Lake is known by lucky New Mexico campers and anglers who come here to camp, fish, mountain bike, hike and enjoy the wildlife. Located only 70 miles northwest of Albuquerque, Fenton Lake is a haven for kayakers and birdwatchers within a couple of hours of home. As with many outdoor destinations, getting there is at least half the fun; it’s a great excuse to take the Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway!

For a small man-made lake, Fenton Lake has a lot of desirable activity surrounding it. The lake is stocked regularly with rainbow trout, while catchable-size native brown trout also end up in the lake from Rio Cebolla. The nearby Seven Springs Fish Hatchery also stocks the lake with Rio Grande cutthroat trout on occasion. Bank fishing is easy, and handicap-accessible fishing piers also enhance the angling opportunities. A small boat launch ramp is provided, but only electric trolling motors are allowed on the lake. Most fishermen find it just as easy to fish from canoe or kayak, or even float-tube. The official State Park website states that ice fishing is prohibited.

Shaded by Ponderosa pine, the campground at Fenton Lake State Park is rustic, spacious and serene. Containing 28 campsites, only five have electricity. Drinking water can be hand-pumped near the lakeshore, and several vault toilets are located around the campground. Picnic tables, campfire rings, grills and a playground round out the amenities. Several times a year, scheduled public activities bring extra visitors to the state park for adventure races, summer camps and National Hunting and Fishing Day. The rest of the year, the campground is refuge to nature lovers who enjoy the interpretive trails, hiking trails and wildlife in the park.

When snow covers the ground, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing take place on the trails. Starting near the campground, the Hall Baxter Trail travels west of the lake and intersects a camp road for the return trip, a distance of nearly two-and-a-half miles. Other trails in the area travel toward nearby peaks and offer exciting glimpses of wildlife such as elk, deer, turkey, muskrat and waterfowl. The entire park showcases a large population of songbirds, waterfowl and birds of prey. The campground’s gravel roads encourage slow traffic and are ideal for mountain biking. Campground stays of several days often require a reservation as the few campsites fill up quickly.

Fenton Lake is strategically located on the Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway. Well-known for its great scenery, particularly in autumn when the aspens turn to hues of gold, the Byway touches many of the most spectacular and unusual geologic features of this ancient post-volcanic area. The Byway passes several natural hot springs, the Gilman tunnels, bored to facilitate logging many years ago; Soda Dam, not an actual dam but a formation of minerals resulting from hot springs deposits that block the Jemez River; the Seven Springs Fish Hatchery where even the kids can catch a trout; and Battleship Rock, a sheer cliff that looks like the prow of a ship. The byway passes Jemez Pueblo and Red Rocks with the tiny settlement of Walatowa where the 3400+ inhabitants of this small indigenous nation sell fry bread, Indian tacos and native handicrafts. Other points of interest include Jemez Springs and Bath House, Tent Rocks National Monument, Bandelier National Monument and Valles Caldera National Preserve. All along the byway, lovely scenery displays the Jemez Mountains and its geological formations in stunning color.

It is unclear when Fenton Lake was created. Named for a former rancher-owner of the property, a dam on the Rio Cebolla created the lake. First purchased by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish as a nesting and resting area for migratory birds, the entire area falls within the boundaries of the 1.6 million-acre Santa Fe National Forest. Over 700 acres of the area surrounding the lake were later assigned to become the Fenton Lake State Park,. Now Fenton Lake is owned by the US Forest Service and Department of Game and Fish but managed by the New Mexico State Parks Division. In recent years, it was discovered that sediments were slowly filling in the lake and decreasing the water volume. A 1989 legislative action allowed for dredging of the little lake, but studies showed that the dredging itself would be harmful to the lake’s health. Instead, the dam was raised two feet to replace the lost depth. A 2014 forest fire in the area surrounding the lake resulted in increasing siltation once again. It isn’t yet clear how this problem will be solved, but there is every intention of working to save the lake once again.

There are no lodgings on the lake or in the surrounding park other than the campground. Other campgrounds are available in the area, both public and commercial. Backpack camping is also available within many areas of the Santa Fe National Forest. Several commercial lodges and guest cabin resorts exist on the main roads surrounding Fenton Lake, and a few of the private homes in the area rent their properties by the week. Real estate is available on the privately-held lands between public holdings. Bigger cities such as San Ysidro, Bernalillo, White Rock, Los Alamos and Jemez Springs have hotels, motels and bed & breakfasts, along with a variety of restaurants and specialty shops. Some of the commercial hot springs function as spas, offering a variety of services. So whether you take up residence in town and visit Fenton Lake for the day or vice-versa, you can take advantage of all Fenton Lake and the Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway have to offer. Meanwhile, there are trout awaiting your cast.

*The several sources of statistics vary in their figures. We have used the most official from the EMNRD Lake Surveys.

Things to do at Fenton Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • National Forest
  • Playground

Fish species found at Fenton Lake

  • Brown Trout
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Trout

Fenton Lake Photo Gallery

Fenton Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: New Mexico Department of Game and Fish

Surface Area: 37 acres

Shoreline Length: 1 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 7,708 feet

Maximum Depth: 14 feet

Water Volume: 264 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1991

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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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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