Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area
Located at 1795 C.R. 210, Durango, Colorado - (970) 375-7335
Lake Nighthorse is CLOSED for the winter
The lake will reopen for public recreation on Friday April 3, 2020.
Why is Lake Nighthorse closed for the winter? The winter seasonal closure of Lake Nighthorse protects important wildlife habitat. Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area is located within critical winter habitat for elk and mule deer and being a new water body, it is becoming more important to bird species over time. Durango Bird Club volunteers conduct an annual Christmas Bird Count at Lake Nighthorse and they are seeing more diversity and bird activity that is unique to Durango and Southwest Colorado in general as a result of this new habitat. Click here to read more from the Durango Herald: Lake Nighthorse Changing the Game for Annual Bird Count.
- Hours of Operation
- Entrance Passes
- Activities/ Programs
- Calendar of Events
- 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. Hours of operation may vary depending on inclement weather.
Mondays and Wednesdays are NO WAKE days (Except Holidays)
The 2020 hours of operation:
- Opening Day for Non-motorized:
- Friday April 3, 9 am - 4 pm
- Open for Weekends (Friday, Saturday & Sunday):
- April 3 - 26, 9 am - 4 pm (non-motorized only)
- Open Daily for Season:
- May 1 - 14, 9 am - 4 pm (non-motorized only)
- Motorized Recreation Allowed:
- May 15 - 31, 8 am - 6 pm
- June 1 - September 3, 7 am - 8 pm
- September 4 - 30, 8 am - 7 pm
- October 1 - 31, 9 am - 4 pm
- Open for Weekends (Friday, Saturday & Sunday):
- November 1 - 14, 9 am - 4 pm
- Winter Wildlife Closure:
- Begins November 15
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)
Gift cards are available any time during the year at the Durango Community Recreation Center and can be used to purchase Lake Nighthorse passes. Lake Nighthorse passes for the 2020 season will be available for purchase beginning January 1, 2020 at the recreation center.
Park Entrance Pass Options
- Day Pass Vehicle Entrance $8
- Day Pass Walk/Bike Entrance $3
- Day Pass Commercial Vehicle $20 (NEW!)
- Season Pass Vehicle:
- 1st for Household $70
- Multiple Vehicle (Same Household) $35
- Season Pass Vehicle Senior *:
- 1st for Household $60
- Multiple Vehicle Senior (Same Household) $30
- Season Pass Walk/Bike $20
- 5-Punch Pass Vehicle $30
- 5-Punch Pass Vehicle Senior * $25
- 5-Punch Pass Walk/Bike $10
* Senior is 62 years and over
Purchasing Day Use Passes
All day use passes are non-refundable and may be purchased during hours of operation at the Entrance Station at Lake Nighthorse. Now available: Commercial Vehicle Day Passes $20 for commercial passenger vehicles such as tour buses.
Purchasing 5-Punch Passes
All punch passes are are good for 5 daily entrances. Passes are non-refundable and and valid through November 14, 2020. The 5 Punch Pass are transferable and may be purchased during hours of operation at the Entrance Station at Lake Nighthorse or at the Durango Community Recreation Center.
Purchasing Season Passes
All passes are valid during the 2020 season, April 3 through November 14 and are non-refundable. Passes may be purchased during hours of operation at the Durango Community Recreation Center, or the Entrance Station at Lake Nighthorse. For your convenience, you may fill out the season pass purchase form in advance by selecting the following link, print, fill out and bring with you: Lake Nighthorse Season Pass Purchase Form (PDF).
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.
Activities and Programs offered at Lake Nighthorse
The City of Durango partners with local businesses & organizations to offer recreational opportunities at Lake Nighthorse. Check back throughout the season to learn of new activities & programs.
- 4Corners Riversports offers onsite SUP, kayak, and canoe rentals as well as paddling lessons and SUP yoga classes. For information about on site rentals, visit 4CRS website: riversports.com.
- Peaks & Tides offers sailing classes and clinics for all ages as well as private sailing charters.
- Duranglers offers private guided fly fishing trips. For more information about booking your trip, visit Duranglers website: duranglers.com.
- Adaptive Sports Association offers adaptive canoe, kayak, and paddle board adventures with programs designed to meet the needs of participants with a wide range of physical and/or cognitive disabilities.
- Colorado Outback Adventures offers leisure boat rides or water sports sessions for your choice of wake boarding, wake surfing or water skiing. For more information, visit Colorado Outback Adventure website: coloradooutbackadventures.com.
- Durango Adventure Therapy offers healing and awareness through water and art therapy at Lake Nighthorse. "Adventure" therapy sessions are tailored to match participant(s) needs.
For registration and price details, please view the Enrichment Guide:
Winter wildlife seasonal closure: November 15, 2019 - April 2, 2020
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 Colorado Parks and Wildlife Fishing Brochure prior to fishing at Lake Nighthorse: Fishing Brochure (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.
- 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 will operate recreational use in compliance with the State of Colorado Parks and Wildlife 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)
Do you have an ELECTRIC MOTOR for your watercraft? Electric motors must be inspected and if necessary, decontaminated per Colorado Parks and Wildlife regulations. Please be prepared to have your electric motor inspected even if it is not attached to your watercraft upon entry at Lake Nighthorse.
Boat inspections and decontaminations are FREE with the purchase of an entrance pass to Lake Nighthorse.
Boats and non-exempt watercraft without an exit inspection documented with a seal and white receipt from another area reservoir or from a known ANS-infected lake such as Navajo Lake will be required to receive an incoming boat inspection, which may include decontamination prior to entering the water at Lake Nighthorse. Boats with motors that have most recently visited Navajo Lake, which is infected with Eurasian Watermilfoil, a known ANS plant species, will be required to have the motor flushed with hot water to decontaminate the vessel.
All motorized boats and non-exempt watercrafts are encouraged to obtain an exit inspection when leaving area lakes prior to coming to Lake Nighthorse. These inspections are documented by certified officials and verified with a seal and receipt. Out of state motorized watercraft are permitted at Lake Nighthorse, however, boats will be subject to a high-risk inspection and possibly delayed entry dependent upon the findings of the inspection. All decontaminations are dependent upon staff and resource availability.
False bottom boats and rafts that have recently been launched in water bodies that are positive for Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) such as Navajo Lake, Lake Powell, and the Colorado River must be inspected. If these water crafts are unable to be decontaminated due to the false bottom, they will be unable to launch at Lake Nighthorse.
Watercraft classified as exempt by Colorado regulation #800K include:
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.
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