Friday, February 2, 2018

Elephant Butte Lake State Park

Freddy and I headed east over the mountains and down to Elephant Butte Lake State Park, the largest in New Mexico.

The lake was formed by a dam on the Rio Grande and when full can stretch about 40 miles in length. I could tell by the entrance station that this park gets a lot of visitors.

I wanted to check in with the head honcho Kay, so I asked where the office was located. Over by the car wreck, I was told. Really?

A very good reminder of the dangers of operating any sort of vehicle or boat while under the influence.

There are five developed campgrounds at the lake along with plenty of primitive and boat-in areas. Four of those can be found near the main entrance. With Freddy as my guide, we set off exploring.

The pup explained to me that these sites require a reservation. If the tag is green, it means that it is open for one night only. He is pretty smart for a two year old.

These are large sites with shade ramadas and several back up to the desert, like numbers 4 and 5.

There a couple in the center of the loop that have super sized shelters, such as site 17.

The Luchini Trail can be accessed here behind the Desert Cove restroom.

Freddy thinks that they are elephants here and tried to drag me along the trail in search of them.

I told him I would explain the park's name later and we continued on our counterclockwise loop.

Next up was tiny Lower Ridge.

Yep, just three sites. Freddy liked number 3.

But what he really wanted to do was play in the lake. I told him we would be heading down that way after I took some bathroom pictures. He gave me a strange look.

I continue to be impressed with the facilities here in New Mexico.

Hey, I have no pooper in my little trailer so I appreciate clean stocked bathrooms. Anyway, we headed down to the lake.

Freddy noticed something off to the left.

The lake is known as one of the top fishing areas in southwest and this camper was heading out in search of dinner. Preferably catfish. Freddy's ears perked up at that comment. I shook my head at him and wished the guy good luck.

He was staying in a tent right on the beach. That looks like fun.

There was another camper off to the right about a half mile away.

You can barely see him. In the summer I am sure you won't get this much privacy, but right now it is 70 and sunny. What are you waiting for?

Freddy has been waiting to play and sure enough a young Jack Russel showed up. Her name was Pixie.

After a brief frolic I dragged him away.

Lions Beach campground was right behind us.

There are three rows of campsites here comprising over 40 spots. Some are available for reservations including the entire lower row.

From there it was a short walk east to our campground, Quail Run.

This campground adjoins Desert Cove and shares the same restroom.

And yes, it is full of Quail running around. Freddy says that they cheat by flying. If they stayed on the ground it would be a fair chase. Whatever. He also was confused by all the Scamp trailers.

"Is this ours?"


"The one on the left?"


"Oh, I see it."

Silly puppy.

You can see all three Scamps if you look close.

So that wraps up the camping options around the main entrance area. So what now? Road trip!

We drove a few miles south to see the dam.

The tiny outflow is the mighty Rio Grande.

That is the Damsite Marina. See that little peninsula below it? Freddy had to see it up close.

Heading back north we stopped by Marina Del Sur next to the main camping area.

There is a Rally Site next to the marina and some others above it.

OK, continuing north there is a small marina called Rock Canyon.

I wanted a pizza. Freddy said he wanted to chase a rabbit. We stared at each other. Nobody blinked. I drove away. And stopped at one of the primitive camping areas called Lost Canyon. While Freddy chased some rabbits I took some pictures of the lake.

This is perfect for paddling. The water is clear and the fast boats keep away. I remember canoeing through a flooded campground many years ago, carving silent paths amongst the trees. Looking down to observe the underwater inhabitants from my perch. If you paddle you know what I am talking about.

About 10 miles or so north of the main entrance is South Monticello campground.

There are 50 spots to stay at here and they have a nifty solar restroom.

Freddy likes a view of the water so he chose a couple of favorites. With a closer look at each view.

Number 19.

And number 25.

Not too shabby.

In fact, I should run down the power availability at all the campgrounds.

South Monticello - 50 amp in 2, 5, 8-11, 37-39, 42, 45, and 47. All others 30 amp.
Lions Beach - All 30 amp.
Quail Run and Desert Cove -  All 50 amp.
Lower Ridge - Not listed, probably 30 amp.

This info is from the brochure.

The sunrises are amazing over the lake. We rambled to the shore early in the morning a few days ago.

When you take sunrise photos with a lake in the foreground, don't just have lake then sun then sky. Add a little something.

Maybe some shoreline.

Maybe a rock for another point of interest.

If you happen to have the best puppy in the world, and all puppy owners do, ask him or her to strike a pose.

As the sun kept climbing the sky we took a last look to the right and then to the left from the ridge by my car.

This is a fantastic park and we might stop by again during our travels throughout New Mexico. But now is the time to set Freddy straight. About Elephants. And butts versus buttes. Mesa's even.

He likes to pontificate with a ball in his mouth since he doesn't smoke. He pretends it is a cigar.

"Frankly Greg, although I liked this place I am a little disappointed."

I knew what was coming.

"And why would you feel that way?"

"No elephants. Not a single one. You said there would be elephants. I wanted to sneak up on them while they were drinking from the lake and nibble a leg. Or a tail. Maybe go crazy and chew a tusk."

"First off, it's butte not butt. In fact, do you know the difference between a butte and a mesa?"

"Mesa's have elephants?"

"No, a butte is taller than it is wide and a mesa is wider than it is tall."

"Hey Greg?"


"I don't care. Fetch this!"

Greg and Freddy


  1. Looks wonderful, I wish I was there!

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  3. Hi Greg,
    what a fabulous blog, wonderful pictures including a couple of our Pixie. I agree with everything you and Freddy have to say about this wonderful State Park. As you know we stayed for 14 days at Lions Beach site #84, then left to go to Caballo Sate Park for 1 week and returned for another 2 weeks and stayed at Lower Ridge, however we disagree with Freddy, we preferred Site #1 much bigger then #3, we could not even see our neighbors.

    We are right now in Arizona on the way to Nevada, however we will return to Elephant Butte in about 2 weeks, of the many State Parks in the southern half of New Mexico we like this one the best. Pixie and I hope you and Freddy are enjoying your travels.

    Be well,
    Martha and Pixie