Located 2 miles southwest of Durango, Colorado, Lake Nighthorse welcomes visitors to enjoy a picnic, swim in the lake, take a boat ride, and fish. It’s one of Colorado’s newest manmade lakes to open to the public, decades in the making. It first welcomed water enthusiasts on April 1, 2018.
Now tourists and locals’ can access big lake sports like motor boating, fishing and swimming with a few miles of downtown. There is a small entrance fee to get into the lake. Recreational activities are scheduled on different days like the use of motorized water vehicles over paddle boards. Parking is also available.
Originally known as the Animas-La Plata Water Project, Lake Nighthorse is fed by the Animas River. It was then named in honor of former United States Senator, Ben Nighthorse Campbell and has been decades in the making. After experiencing delays for a host of environmental and political reasons, the Lake’s construction finally began in 2003. The park is managed by the City of Durango. Visitors will not be allowed past the 25-foot boundary to protect the historic Native American artifacts.
An annual vehicle pass runs $70, or $8 for the day, $3 for those on foot on bicycle. Senior discounts are available.
Day-use activities at Durango’s Lake Nighthorse
Recreation is only allowed in developed areas, as the park is set on sacred land. A set of rules have also been set in place. One of which is allowing dogs to enter but kept on a leash, no alcohol inside the premises, no glass containers, and no campfire or any type of fire. Drones are also not allowed unless they secure an authorization from the Bureau of Reclamation.
Boating: – Boats will be inspected at the boat ramp for aquatic nuisance species. Kayaks, paddle boards and canoes are available for rent at Lake Nighthorse through 4Corners River Sports.
Fishing: Fishing is permitted and anglers can use all traditional bait types, so live worms are okay. Anglers need a valid fishing license required for those 16+. The lake has been stocked with kokanee salmon, brown trout, and rainbow trout.
- Bag limit is 4 trout per day and 8 in possession (no size limit restrictions)
- Anglers can use traditional baits
- Kokanee Salmon limit is 10 per day and 10 in possession. Snagging is not permitted in the fall.
- Don’t fish by the boat ramp.
- Fish entrails go in the trash, not the lake.
Hiking: – Walk around certain parts of the lake in developed areas.
Picnicking: – Picnic tables are available for use.
Swimming: – Swimming is permitted in the swim section.
Address: Durango, CO
Season: Year round
Pets: Yes, on-leash