Located to the Southwest of Durango and only about two miles from downtown is Lake Nighthorse, a reservoir providing water storage and recreational opportunities. Named after former Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Lake Nighthorse filled for the first time after its development in 2011.
Used solely for water storage until a few years ago, the lake opened up to the public for recreation in 2018 and has various options for those looking for some summer entertainment. Those interested can easily find chances for swimming, fishing, boating, and/or hiking, all conveniently located in designated lake areas open to the public.
The lake is open from early April through November, with different activities available depending on the season.
Closed through the winter and early spring months for wildlife protection, Lake Nighthorse opens again in the summer, refreshed and ready for many visitors.
Located at the Lake Nighthorse swim beach Wibit Aqua Park is a series of colorful floating platforms ready for avid swimmers to explore and enjoy. But to use the waterpark, swimmers must be 12 years or older unless accompanied by an adult and wear a life jacket.
Life Jackets are available for rental on-site or through a number of water sports outfitters.
One of the best parts of a lake is the chance to get out on the open water. Lake Nighthorse offers the opportunity to take paddle boats such as kayaks, paddleboards, canoes, and other non-motorized boats into the lake.
Stocked with rainbow trout, brown trout, and kokanee salmon, Lake Nighthorse allows fishing out on the open waters for those with boats and at a fishing dock for those without.
All fishers must have a valid Colorado fishing license.
You can pick these up at a number of fishing outfitters located in downtown Durango.
Motorized boats are welcomed at Lake Nighthorse after they are inspected by the lake's staff to protect the lake's wildlife from any invasive species. Once inspected, boats can roam across the water fishing or just enjoy the scenic views and idyllic atmosphere.
Cool clean water is open and waiting for any swimmers interested in cooling down on a hot summer day at Lake Nighthorse's designated swimming area. Those who need a break from the water and the attached aqua park or those who are just looking for a place to relax outside can enjoy themselves on the sandy shore or the shaded tables.
People looking for an adventure, a new experience, or returnees looking to keep up their skills can find both rentals and lessons for e-foils out at the lake. An e-foil, for those unaware, is a form of electric surfboard designed to work on water lacking the waves typically required for surfing and can provide an exhilarating experience for those interested.
If you have ever dreamed of a life at sea with the wind filling your sails, Lake Nighthorse has the next best thing. Through a local group, visitors at the lake can book sailing lessons and private charters to explore the waters at their leisure.
While relaxing on the beach or water is highly recommended, drinks and food are not readily available on-site and should be prepared beforehand.
Be sure to include plenty of water and stay hydrated
Those swimming and going out on the water should bring sunscreen due to the limited amount of shade available
The lake water is usually chilly and will be at its warmest in the late summer. Getting out of the water can still be quite cold for some, even on warm days, so be sure to keep a towel near your hand
All anglers must have a valid Colorado fishing license
There is an ADA fishing dock and pavilion available
The bathroom facilities are ADA compliant
There is wheelchair access to beaches via a ramp
Tribute Garden Viewpoint is ADA compliant
Land Manager: City of Durango and Bureau of Reclamation
Pets are not allowed at Lake Nighthorse
Glass containers are not allowed near the beaches and in the water
There are trash receptacles, but no recycling receptacles
Motorized watercraft are only allowed Thursday-Monday from 8-5
Boat inspections are mandatory
Fishing licenses from Colorado Parks and Wildlife are required
Only traditional baits are permitted for fishing- no live bait
This is a mixed-use area with swimmers, boaters, and fishers; please respect each other and observe any posted area-of-use signs
There is little shade available in Lake Nighthorse- we recommend wearing sunscreen, hats, and using an umbrella to shade yourself from the sun
Apply and reapply sunscreen every two hours
Do not approach and feed any wildlife and birds