Navajo State Park is located in southwest Colorado, approximately forty-five miles southeast from Durango. First settled by the Ancient Puebloans, then abandoned due to drought, the park is now resplendent with 15,000 surface acres of water, thanks to the creation of the Navajo Reservoir.
Navajo Lake and Dam
The key feature of Navajo State Park is the Navajo Lake and Dam. Crossing the San Juan River in New Mexico, the dam spans nearly three-quarters of a mile and is four hundred feet high. Construction began in 1958, with the purchase of private land from approximately fifty families who were then relocated. The project was completed in 1962. Water from the San Juan River is released for the nearby thermal power plants, irrigation, municipal use, and the various industries along the river. This dam also provides water for the Navajo Irrigation Project. The Project reclaims blocks of land from Navajo Lake, preparing them for irrigation.
The Navajo Lake offers excellent fishing, either from the shore or on a boat. Because the lake straddles the border between Colorado and New Mexico, anglers should acquire a fishing license for both states. The Visitors Center, located on the Colorado side, sells both licenses. Casting from the shore, one finds catfish, bluegill, northern pike, large-mouth bass, crappie, and small-mouth bass in great abundance. For those anglers who prefer casting from a boat, the deeper portions of the lake abound with Kokanee salmon and several species of trout.
For those visitors who want to enjoy the water, but prefer activities other than fishing; find a myriad of activities on the lake. The lake accommodates powerboats, sailboats, and personal watercraft. Jet skiers and water skiers dot the surface of the lake in the warm summer months. Many visitors dock houseboats at the lake to tour its full thirty-five mile span through Colorado and New Mexico. Visitors who prefer the tamer activity of swimming are welcome to do so, though there is no designated swim beach.
Visitors taking a break from water sports can choose from a variety of trails that wander through Navajo State Park. The park permits both hiking and mountain biking on these trails, though some trails are less well suited for mountain bikes than other trails.
The Nature Trail circles around the lake for approximately 1000 feet. It is a dirt trail, suitable for hiking, though not suitable for maintain biking. The Rosa Trail overlooks the marina and the lake. This 3500-foot dirt trails winds through the Rosa campground. The Windsurf Beach trail overlooks the Windsurf Beach campground. It is a 6024-foot gravel trail that leads from the Visitor Center, along the old railroad tracks that overlook the lake, ending at the campground. The Piedra trail begins at the Windsurf beach campground and offers views from above the lake area. This 5063-foot gravel trail will lead to the confluence of the Piedra and the San Juan Rivers. Finally, the Sambrito Wetlands Trail is a 3534-foot gravel trail that loops through the park’s wetlands area.
Navajo State Park contains three full-service cabins, complete with heat and air conditioning. However, only one of the three cabins remains open year-round. The Carracas, Tiffany, and Rosa campgrounds accommodate both tents and recreational vehicles. A camper services building at each site contains showers and flush toilets. The Carracas site also offers a dump station for recreational vehicles. These services are available from April 15 to October 15. Campers wishing to utilize these areas during the off-season must be self-contained. Navajo State Park also maintains nineteen primitive campsites. These sites utilize vault toilets, and are therefore available year-round.
Navajo State Park provides visitors with the opportunity to commune with nature all year long. Picnic shelters provide a delightful setting for families, friends, companies, or wedding parties to gather. Several areas of the park permit horseback riding. During the winter, cross-country skiing allows visitors to experience the park’s breathtaking views.
For more information regarding the wide variety of activities in Navajo State Park, visit the park’s web site at http://parks.state.co.us/parks/navajo/Pages/NavajoHome.aspx.