New Mexico is known for its laid-back lifestyle and stunning rural scenery. The state has an impressive diversity, from canyons to forested mountains, prairies and deserts. And oases such as streams, rivers and lakes dot the landscape and provide respite from the scorching summer sun. Burford Lake is the largest natural lake, covering an area of approximately 2,000 acres. But what is the largest artificial lake in New Mexico? Discover the answer, including other stunning lakes in the state.
Largest artificial lake in New Mexico: Elephant Butte
The largest artificial lake in New Mexico is the Elephant Butte Reservoir, covering 36,500 acres (area). It is the largest in the state by total area and peak volume, and the 84th largest artificial lake in the United States. Elephant Butte is a dam and reservoir on the southern Rio Grande, over 100 miles north of El Paso and five miles north of Truth and Consequences, New Mexico. It is surrounded by Elephant Butte Lake State Park, the state’s largest state park.
The dam was completed in 1916 and the reservoir is managed by the Rio Grande Project, which provides hydroelectric power and irrigation to west Texas and south-central New Mexico. The power system was owned by the Rio Grande Project until 1977, but is now owned by a private electric company.
Water level of Elephant Butte Reservoir
In August 2022, Elephant Butte Reservoir had a 3% utilization rate, well below the monthly average. This is in line with water level trends in the Southwest compared to other bodies of water such as Lake Mead and Lake Powell. If the drought persists in the region over the next few years, it could weigh heavily on the agribusiness. But meteorologists believe it won’t be too different from what farmers have seen over the past two decades.
What activities are there at Elephant Butte Reservoir?
Despite its falling water levels, Elephant Butte Reservoir is a popular destination for plenty of outdoor recreation.
Take part in these activities next time you’re in the area:
- jet skiing
- Get in
- have a picnic
- Scuba diving
- To swim
- bird watching
- Or just relax on the shore and enjoy the scenery
Wildlife at Elephant Butte Reservoir
You can spot these common animals around the lake:
- road runner
- White Pelicans
- great crested grebe
What is the largest lake in New Mexico?
The Elephant Butte Reservoir is not only the largest artificial lake in New Mexico, but also the largest in general. The deepest lake in New Mexico is Navajo Lake. It is a reservoir on the San Juan River and has a maximum depth of 395 feet.
How many artificial lakes are there in New Mexico?
There are over 1,200 lakes throughout New Mexico and only 15 of those are man-made. Artificial lakes are of vital environmental and economic importance. Check out the other man-made lakes in New Mexico.
Other large artificial lakes
Navajo Lake is a reservoir in northwestern New Mexico and covers 15,600 acres. The creation of this reservoir is quite controversial as it displaced hundreds of families and destroyed one of the most sacred Navajo sites. The lake and its shores are part of Navajo Lake State Park.
El Vado Lake is a reservoir in northern New Mexico. It is 3,200 acres, five miles long and one mile wide. Visitors to El Vado Lake State Park can hike, boat, camp, and picnic. The area is also known for excellent salmon and trout fishing.
the Abiquiu Lake was created by the Abiquiu Dam in northern New Mexico along the Rio Chama. The lake is 5,200 acres and over 12 miles long. The water and shore offer camping, picnicking, swimming, boating, fishing and hiking. As with Elephant Butte, water levels are dangerously low. In 2021, the water was so low that it did not reach the dam.
Brantley Lake is a reservoir on the Pecos River near Carlsbad, New Mexico. Its area is over 4,000 acres and its primary purpose is flood control, irrigation, recreation and fish management. It is located in the southeastern region of the state in the Chihuahuan Desert.