Official - Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area
Lake Nighthorse opens on Friday, April 2 for non-motorized recreation
Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area will open for the 2021 season on Friday, April 2. The lake will be open for non-motorized recreation 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, April 2 through May 9. Daily operations will begin May 14, and motorized recreation begins May 15. Find the full schedule, including wakeless & quiet hours, below.
New amenities to the swim beach include an inflatable play structure (May through September), lifeguards and guard station, and a separate concrete paddle craft launch ramp. There also will be an expanded no wake zone connecting to west side. Spring pumping from the Animas River will bring the water level at the swim beach to meet the sand.
To ensure the safety of the public and Lake Nighthorse staff during COVID-19, the City of Durango requests visitors maintain six feet social distance from others, wear a face covering, and bring a personal supply of hand sanitizer.
2021 Season and 5-Punch Passes may be purchased in person at the Recreation Center, or online prior to Lake Nighthorse opening for the season. 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.
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday open to 10 a.m. are quiet & wakeless hours, including holidays.
2021 Hours of operation may vary due to COVID-19.
- April 2 – May 9: 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: 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Daily
- September 1 – 30: 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Daily
- October 1 – 17: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Daily
- October 22 – 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 Avenue, or at Lake Nighthorse beginning April 2.
You may also purchase passes 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 Pass Vehicle:
- 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 may be 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/.
- Duranglers offers guided fly fishing opportunities. For more information, visit Duranglers online at: duranglers.com.
- Peaks & Tides offers sailing classes and clinics for all ages as well as private sailing charters. Contact Peaks & Tides at (970) 903-6036 or email@example.com.
- 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.
- Go Fish Durango offers chartered boating opportunities for small and large groups to fish or cruise. For more information, visit Go Fish Durango online at: gofishdurango.com/.
Lake Nighthorse Swim Beach
Lifeguards on Duty from May 14 to September 6: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Paddle craft launch ramp
There is a new separate hard-surface launch ramp for paddle craft at the swim beach. Convenient loading/unloading parking spaces will connect to a crusher fine gravel path directly to the new launch ramp.
Inflatable play structureSwim 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
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 2021 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
MANDATORY BOAT INSPECTIONS AT LAKE NIGHTHORSE: Lake Nighthorse operates recreational use in compliance with the State of Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) 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.
If you have an electric motor or a trailer of any kind, the watercraft, trailer and/or motor must be inspected.
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.
State of Colorado Parks and Wildlife Exempt Watercraft do not require mandatory boat inspections unless the watercraft are trailered. Remember Clean Drain Dry applies to all watercraft in order to protect Lake Nighthorse and waterbodies everywhere. If you are unsure if your watercraft is designated as exempt, stop at the entrance booth and a certified boat inspector will assist you.
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.
2021 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 firstname.lastname@example.org as of 3-18-21
- Combined Questions and Answers received during these meetings
- March 10 Parks and Recreation Advisory Board adaptive management presentation.
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