Official - Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area

Winter Cover Picture1795 C.R. 210, Durango, Colorado - (970) 375-7335 - Lake Nighthorse Live Cam

Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area is closed for the winter.

This federally required seasonal closure of Lake Nighthorse is to protect critical winter wildlife habitat. 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 National Audubon Society annual winter bird count at Lake Nighthorse continues to indicate how valuable this winter habitat is for Southwest Colorado. The Durango Christmas Bird Count conducted on December 18, 2021 set a new record for number of species observed at Lake Nighthorse. The total count of 29 species is up from the 2020 count of 26 species. 2021 observations included three rare species:  2 White-winged Scoters, 6 Horned Grebes and 1 Common Loon.  A total of 8 species of birds were observed at Lake Nighthorse that were not found anywhere else within the census area for the count. Click here for the 2021 winter bird count report. We look forward to what the 2022 winter bird count will report.

2023 season passes can be purchased beginning January 1, 2023 in person at the Durango Community Recreation Center located at 2700 Main Avenue Durango, CO 81301. Prior to January 1st, Parks and Recreation Gift Cards may be purchased at the recreation center and then applied to a Lake Nighthorse pass at any time. Questions? Please call the Parks and Recreation Department at 970-375-7321.

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2023 Lake Nighthorse Hours of Operation

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.  

During daily operations, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday open to 10 a.m. are quiet & wakeless hours, including holidays.

  • March 31 – May 7:  Friday, Saturday and Sunday Only; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Non-Motorized Recreation ONLY
  • May 12 – 31: Open Daily; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Motorized Recreation Begins May 15
  • June 1 – September 4*:  7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Daily; Guarded Swim Beach June 1 - September 4

    *NEW for 2023: Extended hours through September 4th

  • September 5 - September 30: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Daily
  • October 1 – 15:  9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Daily 
  • October 20 – November 12:  Friday, Saturday and Sunday Only; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • November 13:  Winter Wildlife Closure begins

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)

Lake Nighthorse Entrance Passes

2023 Park Entrance Pass Options

  • Day Pass Vehicle Entrance  $10
  • Day Pass Walk/Bike Entrance  $4
  • 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
  • Commercial Vehicle / School Bus Day Pass $25 

  • Commercial Vehicle / School Bus 5-Punch Pass $100

 Senior is 62 years and over