Navajo Lake, a 15,600-acre, 35-mile-long reservoir on the San Juan River that straddles the New Mexico and Colorado border, is the centerpiece of Navajo State Park. While most of the lake lies in New Mexico, the Colorado side includes about 3,000 watery acres. The 5,087-acre state park is one of southwestern Colorado’s busiest recreation areas, with over 300,000 visitors bringing sailboats, house boats, and motor boats to explore this scaled-down version of Lake Powell. Steady winds on the lake make for great sailing and windsurfing. Anglers reel in catfish, crappie, bluegill, largemouth bass, rainbow trout, northern pike, and kokanee salmon, while hikers explore rocky coves, tenters and RVers camp on bluffs above the lake, and nature lovers observe wildlife.
- A good day trip is to Chimney Rock National Monument to the northwest of Navajo State Park. This archeological area includes the ruins of a 200-room pueblo built over 1,000 years ago by the Ancestral Puebloans. Before Navajo Lake filled, archeologists excavated many dwellings inhabited by the ancient ones beneath today’s lake.
- Go camping at Navajo State Park. The three campgrounds have 118 RV and tent sites, including some that accommodate RVs up to 55 feet long and others that have primitive tent sites. The park also rents three two-bedroom log cabins. Camper services buildings in each campground have pay showers, flush toilets, and running water from spring through fall.
- Navajo Lake’s big water makes for jet skiing fun in summer. The park reminds all jet skiers to have plenty of gas and to remember that 14- and 15-year-olds must have a boating certification card, and kids under the age of 14 are not allowed to operate a jet ski.
- The park doesn’t close in winter. Navajo Lake usually doesn’t freeze so you can boat year-round. Call ahead to make sure the boat ramp is open and clear of snow. Camping is available in the winter months for cross-country skiers, fishermen, and birdwatchers. Look for bald eagles in trees along the lake.
Recommended season(s): Year-round
—Stewart M. Green