Elephant Butte Lake State Park


The marina at Elephant Butte Lake State Park
The marina at Elephant Butte Lake State Park
Boating on Elephant Butte Lake

Elephant Butte Reservoir is the largest and most popular lake in New Mexico. Elephant Butte Dam was built across the Rio Grande in 1916 and created a lake up to 40 miles long with more than 200 miles of shoreline. The lake was originally built for irrigation and flood control purposes but has evolved into one of New Mexico's primary recreation spots. The state park contains about 24,500 acres while the lake surface covers some 36,500 acres.

100 million years ago, the countryside around Elephant Butte Reservoir was part of a large, shallow inland sea. After the seawater receded, this became a favorite hunting area of the Tyrannosaurus rex. We know that because some of the finest fossilized T-Rex skeletons on Earth were found around here. The stegamastodon is another animal that left behind fossilized skeletons in this area, too. The stegomastodon was an early precursor of today's elephant, but that isn't where the place name came from. That lump of rock in the center of the top photo on this page supposedly resembles an elephant, hence the name. There are a couple museums in the area that offer exhibits of some of the local fossil finds, in addition to exhibits about some of the indigenous people who lived here before and after the Europeans arrived.

Elephant Butte Lake State Park offers a visitor center, group picnic shelter and 132 developed campsites, 98 of which offer electric hookups. In the camping areas are restrooms and showers. There is a playground and a centrally located RV dump station. In addition to the various water sports and fishing activities offered, the park also has picnicking sites, hiking trails and plenty of wildlife to watch. Winter sports are big around here, too.

The entry gate at Elephant Butte Lake State Park is open 24 hours a day, every day. To get there: park headquarters is located about 5 miles north of Truth or Consequences near exit 83 on Interstate 25.

July 4th at Elephant Butte Lake State Park
July 4th at Elephant Butte Lake State Park
Elephant Butte Lake State Park
Upper photo courtesy of Byways.org. Other photos courtesy of New Mexico State Parks