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Lake Nighthorse

Watercraft Permitted at Lake Nighthorse*:
April 1 - May 13
 Kayak Canoe Raft Belly Boat Windsurfer Board
 Sailboard Float Tubes Inner Tubes Paddle Boards Foldable Plastic Boats

*Click here for pictures of watercraft that are allowed and that are NOT currently allowed at Lake Nighthorse

Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area Map (click here)
Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area Brochure (click here)

 Lake Nighthorse Recreation Schedule

Approved motorized and non-motorized uses allowed DAILY May 15 - November 14
 Mondays and Wednesdays are NO WAKE days

Hours of Operation
Entrance Gate Closes 1/2 Hour Before Recreation Area Closes For the Day

Hours of operation may vary depending on inclement weather.
  The 2018 hours of operation will be as follows:

  • April 1 – May 13:  Saturday and Sunday ONLY from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • May 15 – May 31:  Daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • June 1 – September 3:  Daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • September 4 – September 30:  Daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • October 1 – November 14:  Daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • November 15 – March 31:  Seasonal Closure

Lake Nighthorse Entrance Fees

 Fee Type Cost
 Annual Vehicle Pass  
 Multiple Vehicle Annual Pass
 Senior Annual Vehicle Pass
 Senior Multiple Vehicle Annual Pass
 Annual Bike or Walk-in Pass 
 Daily Vehicle Entry
 Daily Walk/Bike-in Entry

Purchasing Day Use Passes

All day use passes may be purchased during hours of operation at the Entrance Station at Lake Nighthorse.

Purchasing Annual Passes

All annual passes may be purchased during hours of operation at the Durango Community Recreation Center, or the Entrance Station at Lake Nighthorse, beginning Sunday April 1. For your convenience, you may fill out the annual pass purchase form in advance by selecting the following link, print, fill out and bring with you: Lake Nighthorse Annual Pass Purchase Form.

Please note the following:

  • Vehicle Passes require proof of vehicle registration at the time a vehicle pass is purchased. This includes Vehicle, Multiple Vehicle, and Senior Passes.
    • Annual vehicle passes are windshield decals that must be affixed to the windshield of your vehicle to be valid.
    • Removing the decal or passing the decal between vehicles invalidates the pass.

  • Bike or Walk-In Passes may be purchased during hours of operation at either the Durango Community Recreation Center or at the Entrance Station at Lake Nighthorse.
    • If purchasing this pass at the Recreation Center, you will be issued an identification card to show upon entry at Lake Nighthorse.
    • If purchasing this pass at the Entrance Station at Lake Nighthorse, you will be entered into the City database and given a paper receipt for purchase. Your identification card can then be picked up at the Recreation Center at your earliest convenience.

Lake Nighthorse Fishing

All fishing at Lake Nighthorse requires a Colorado Parks and Wildlife fishing license for individuals 16 years of age and older. Please review the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Fishing Brochure prior to fishing at Lake Nighthorse: http://cpw.state.co.us/Documents/RulesRegs/Brochure/fishing.pdf

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 in the fall.
  • No fishing around the boat ramp
  • Please put fish entrails in the garbage, not the lake

Lake Nighthorse Aquatic Nuisance Species Boat Inspections

Lake Nighthorse will operate recreational use in compliance with the State of Colorado Department of Natural Resources 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: http://cpw.state.co.us/Documents/ANS/BoatersGuideToANS.pdf

Lake Nighthorse Operations

Lake Nighthorse Operations Plan March 2018

The following operational management strategies will be implemented by the City of Durango and Bureau of Reclamation to provide quality recreational experiences:
  • Day Use Only
  • Leave no trace, dispose of trash in proper receptacles
  • Vehicles and bicycles off road are not permitted
  • Alcohol and/or drugs are no permitted, including marijuana products
  • No glass containers
  • Hazards not marked
  • Disturbance to archaeological resources is prohibited per ARPA of 1979
  • Houseboats that are used as a human dwelling; cabin cruisers with full living quarters on board, including plumbing are not permitted
  • No boats with open-air-exhaust are permitted
  • Adherence to Colorado Parks and Wildlife Fishing Regulations including no live bait
  • No fishing at boat ramp where fish spawning occurs
  • Designated fueling area at the entrance station
  • No fires are permitted
  • There will be a designated no motorized craft area accessible from the Overflow Parking area; Official boats will have access through the no motorized craft area to the public safety personnel dock
  • Motorized personal watercraft (e.g. jet skis) will not be allowed except for special events involving motorized personal watercraft
  • Restricted public access to 25’ above high-water level and in developed recreation areas
  • Boats travel in a counterclockwise direction for towed recreation in the open use area
  • Adherence to City, State and Federal Laws
  • Dogs will be permitted, and pet owners will be required to adhere to the City leash law properly dispose of dog waste
  • Non-authorized drone use is not permitted
  • Follow public conduct rules per federal regulations 43 CFR Part 423


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 is poised to provide a significant recreational amenity to the area.  Lake Nighthorse is currently closed to the public.

Public Meeting Information

Public Meeting Summary:

Historical Documents:

For questions to the City of Durango Parks and Recreation Department regarding the current status of recreation at Lake Nighthorse, please email