Official - Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area
1795 C.R. 210, Durango, Colorado - (970) 375-7335
Lake Nighthorse wakeless use public engagement meetings
The City of Durango Parks and Recreation Department invited interested community members to virtual meetings exploring possibilities for adapting management of wakeless use at Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area. The purpose of the engagement process is not to reconsider allowable recreational uses but to discuss opportunities for adjusting the balance of existing recreational uses.
Information from these meetings includes:
- February 22 Meeting Presentation
- February 24 Meeting Presentation
- Public comment sent to email@example.com as of 3-1-21
- Combined Questions and Answers received during these meetings
Wakeless management details will be posted in March 2021
Lake Nighthorse is closed for the winter season until April 2, 2021
This federally required seasonal closure is to protect critical winter wildlife habitat at Lake Nighthorse. By closing Lake Nighthorse to recreation during winter months, deer and elk that migrate to these lower elevations in winter do not have to actively move - burning stored fat as calories - to avoid humans. There is very little nutrition available to these wildlife during the winter months when plants are dormant, even if there is no snow, so they must conserve stored body fat until new plant growth occurs in the spring.
Not only deer and elk benefit from this seasonal closure, but also water fowl. The annual winter bird count at Lake Nighthorse continues to indicate how valuable this winter habitat is for Southwest Colorado. According to Vice President of the Durango Bird Club, Susan Allerton: “As in past years, the lake was an asset to our local count. We added a new species for the count, a Black Scoter. Five Horned Grebes were also found this year. (This is the second year in a row for this rarity at Lake Nighthorse.) White-winged Scoters (2 of them) were found again this year. Although rare in the area, this was the fourth year we’ve seen White-winged Scoters at Lake Nighthorse on our count. Altogether we added seven species that weren’t found elsewhere in the census area. This year the Durango Christmas Bird Count had the highest number of species in its history. Lake Nighthorse was a major factor in that accomplishment!"
2021 Season and 5-Punch Passes may be purchased in person at the Recreation Center, or online. Full details are listed below in the Entrance Passes tab.
- Hours of operation
- Entrance passes
- Activities/ programs
- Swim beach
- Fishing facts
- Boating rules
- Historic documents
Lake Nighthorse recreation schedule
30 minutes prior to daily closure, the entrance gate will be closed to access, and boat exit inspections as well as watercraft launches will cease.
2021 Hours of operation may vary due to COVID-19.
- April 2 – May 13: Friday, Saturday and Sunday Only; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Non-Motorized Recreation ONLY
- May 14 – 31: Open Daily; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Guarded Swim Beach Opens May 14; Motorized Recreation Begins May 15
- June 1 – August 31: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- September 1 – 30: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- October 1 – 17: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- October 18 – November 14: Friday, Saturday and Sunday Only; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- November 15: Winter Wildlife Closure
Lake Nighthorse operations
To ensure quality recreational experiences at Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area, here is a list of City of Durango and Bureau of Reclamation rules and regulations: Lake Nighthorse Recreational Operations (PDF)
2021 Season and 5-Punch Passes may be purchased in person at the Durango Community Recreation Center located at 2700 Main Ave.
You may also purchase them online by clicking this link: PURCHASE ONLINE NOW. Upon arrival at the lake following your online purchase, you will receive the 2021 Season Pass decal at the entrance booth.
5-punch passes are no longer physical punch cards. Simply purchase your 5-punch pass at the Recreation Center or online in advance of arriving at the lake, then state your name at the entrance booth window and lake staff will electronically deduct a punch from your electronic punch pass.
Day passes may be purchased upon arrival at the lake by credit card, check, or cash.
2021 Park Entrance Pass Options
- Day Pass Vehicle Entrance $10
- Day Pass Walk/Bike Entrance $4
- Day Pass Commercial Vehicle $25
- Season PassVehicle:
- 1st for Household $80
- Multiple Vehicle (Same Household) $40
- Season Pass Vehicle Senior *:
- 1st for Household $70
- Multiple Vehicle Senior (Same Household) $35
- Season Pass Walk/Bike $25
- 5-Punch Pass Vehicle $40
- 5-Punch Pass Vehicle Senior * $30
- 5-Punch Pass Walk/Bike $15
* Senior is 62 years and over
Activities and Programs offered at Lake Nighthorse
The City of Durango partners with local businesses & organizations to offer recreational opportunities at Lake Nighthorse.
Activities & programs have been modified due to COVID-19. Please contact each business directly for details of their programs:
- 4Corners Riversports offers onsite SUP, kayak, and canoe rentals as well as paddling lessons and group rates for birthday parties or other events. For more information, visit 4CRS website: riversports.com/lake-nighthorse-boat-rentals-kayak-canoe-sup-sail/
- Peaks & Tides offers sailing classes and clinics for all ages as well as private sailing charters. Contact Peaks & Tides at (970)903-6036 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Southwest Foils offers eFoil lessons and tours for all ages. Contact Southwest Foils at (970)759-6031. For more information, visit Southwest Foils at southwestfoils.com.
- Colorado Outback Adventures offers leisure boat rides or water sports sessions for your choice of wake boarding, wake surfing or water skiing. Click here for full details or for more information, visit Colorado Outback Adventure website: coloradooutbackadventures.com.
- Durango Adventure Therapy offers healing and awareness through water and art therapy at Lake Nighthorse. "Adventure" therapy sessions are tailored to match participant(s) needs. Click here for full details.
- Habit offers drop-in SUP yoga on Mondays from 9:30 - 10:30 am. Habit SUP Yoga Details for full details or for more information, visit Habit online at: habitdurango.com.
Lake Nighthorse Swim Beach
Lifeguards on Duty from May 14 to September 6: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Swim Beach Rules:
- Children 12 years of age and younger must be accompanied by an adult at all times
- Watercraft not permitted within the swimming area, except safety personnel
- Swimpants required for children who are not toilet trained
- Remote-control watercraft toys not permitted
- No Head first entry into the water
- Glass containers are prohibited
- Swim at your own risk
- Fishing not permitted
- Hazards not marked
- Pets are not allowed
Swim Beach Features Include:
- Open sand areas
- Off-shore wave break
- Designated swimming only area
- Dedicated paddle craft launch area adjacent to the 107-acre non-motorized craft zone
- Additional parking
- ADA accessibility
- Picnic facilities
- SUP, kayak & canoe rentals
- Additional restrooms
- Changing room
All fishing at Lake Nighthorse requires a Colorado Parks and Wildlife fishing license for individuals 16 years of age and older. For information on where to purchase a fishing license, click here (Where to Buy Fishing Licenses PDF).
Please review the 2020 Colorado Parks and Wildlife Fishing Brochure prior to fishing at Lake Nighthorse: Fishing Brochure (PDF)
ADA fishing dock is located adjacent to the Boat Ramp Parking Lot.
Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, and Kokanee Salmon have been stocked since 2011. Other species in the lake include White and Flannelmouth suckers, Fathead Minnows, Johnny Darters, and Crayfish. Fishing Regulations are:
- Bag limit is 4 trout per day and 8 in possession (no size limit restrictions).
- Anglers can use traditional baits (see Colorado Parks and Wildlife Fishing Brochure for definitions; e.g., no live bait allowed).
- Limit on Kokanee Salmon is 10 per day and 10 in possession. No snagging is allowed.
- No fishing where signs are posted.
- Please put fish entrails in the garbage, not the lake.
- Aquatic Nuisance Species Boat Inspections are mandatory at Lake Nighthorse.
Boat Inspections and Decontamination
In order to ensure safe operations at the Lake Nighthorse boat inspection station during the COVID-19 Pandemic, please remain in your vehicle until given instructions by the boat inspector. If asked to leave your vehicle, please remain 6 feet from the boat inspector, lake staff, and other lake patrons.
Bring a face covering and personal supply of hand sanitizer.
If you have an electric motor or a trailer of any kind, they must be inspected. Please remain in your vehicle until the boat inspector gives you instructions regarding this inspection process.
MANDATORY BOAT INSPECTIONS AT LAKE NIGHTHORSE: Lake Nighthorse will operate recreational use in compliance with the State of Colorado Parks and Wildlife regulations for aquatic nuisance species boat inspections of all nonexempt watercraft. Please familiarize yourself with the Boater’s Guide to Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Inspections brochure prior to boating at Lake Nighthorse: Boater’s Guide (PDF)
Lake Nighthorse restrictions do not allow jet skis, above-water exhaust, or boats with plumbed toilets and sinks at any time.
IN ORDER TO RE-ENTER LAKE NIGHTHORSE, ALL MOTORIZED BOATS AND NON-EXEMPT WATERCRAFT ARE ENCOURAGED TO OBTAIN AN EXIT INSPECTION WHERE A GREEN SEAL AND RECEIPT WILL BE ISSUED.
Lake Nighthorse was constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation as part of the Animas La Plata (ALP) Project. The lake is full and the surface area is approximately 1,500 acres at maximum elevation and the reservoir area includes a total of approximately 5,500 acres. The reservoir site is two miles from downtown Durango and provides a significant recreational amenity to the area.
Public Meeting Information:
Public Meeting Summary:
- Bureau of Reclamation 2016 Environmental Assessment
- 2014 Lake Nighthorse Final Conceptual Recreation Master Plan (PDF)
- Lake Nighthorse Area Map (PDF)
- Lake Nighthorse Economic Impact of Recreation Use (PDF)
- Lake Nighthorse Recreation Market Assessment (PDF)
- 2011 Lake Nighthorse Draft Master Plan (PDF)
- Lake Nighthorse Public Presentation from June 18, 2014 (PDF)
For questions to the City of Durango Parks and Recreation Department regarding the current status of recreation at Lake Nighthorse, please email the Parks and Rec Department