Official - Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area

Located at 1795 C.R. 210, Durango, Colorado - (970) 375-7335

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 the February 22 Public Engagement Meeting:

Information From the February 24 Public Engagement Meeting:

Questions received during the February 22 and 24 meetings have been combined and answered in this document:

Comments may be sent to rec@durangogov.org through February 28.

Wakeless management details will be posted in March 2021.

Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area is currently closed for the winter season 

This federally required seasonal closure is to protect critical winter wildlife habitat at Lake Nighthorse. By closing Lake Nighthorse to recreation during winter months, deer and elk that migrate to these lower elevations in winter do not have to actively move - burning stored fat as calories - to avoid humans. There is very little nutrition available to these wildlife during the winter months when plants are dormant, even if there is no snow, so they must conserve stored body fat until new plant growth occurs in the spring.

Not only deer and elk benefit from this seasonal closure, but also water fowl. The annual winter bird count at Lake Nighthorse continues to indicate how valuable this winter habitat is for Southwest Colorado. According to Vice President of the Durango Bird Club, Susan Allerton: “As in past years, the lake was an asset to our local count. We added a new species for the count, a Black Scoter. Five Horned Grebes were also found this year. (This is the second year in a row for this rarity at Lake Nighthorse.) White-winged Scoters (2 of them) were found again this year. Although rare in the area, this was the fourth year we’ve seen White-winged Scoters at Lake Nighthorse on our count. Altogether we added seven species that weren’t found elsewhere in the census area. This year the Durango Christmas Bird Count had the highest number of species in its history. Lake Nighthorse was a major factor in that accomplishment!"

The winter seasonal closure period begins every year on November 15. The lake will re-open for the 2021 season on Friday, April 2.
winter closure photo collage

2021 Season and 5-Punch Passes Now Available for Purchase 

Season and 5-Punch Passes may be purchased at the Durango Community Recreation Center or by calling the Parks and Recreation Department at (970) 375-7321.

  1. Hours of Operation
  2. Entrance Passes
  3. Activities/ Programs
  4. Swim Beach
  5. Fishing Facts
  6. Boating Rules
  7. 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.  

2021 Hours of operation may vary due to COVID-19. 

  • April 2 – May 13:  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:  7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • September 1 – 30:  8 a.m. to 6 p.m. 
  • October 1 – 17:  9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • October 18 – 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)

Entrance Sign image