When you think of New Mexico, kayaking might not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, this beautiful state is home to plenty of excellent places for paddling adventures. From breathtaking lakes to majestic rivers, there’s something for everyone. Join us as we explore some of the best places to kayak in the Land of Enchantment.
Elephant Butte Lake, NM
One of the top spots for kayaking in New Mexico is Elephant Butte Lake. This expansive 40,000-acre lake is an impoundment of the Rio Grande. With its numerous beaches and easy access points, launching your kayak is a breeze. If you prefer dedicated boat ramps and marinas, you’ll find those too. Families and beginners will appreciate the calm waters, while the many coves and islands offer exciting paddling opportunities. For a longer adventure, you can even paddle along the Rio Grande to Caballo Lake State Park.
Flowing along the US-Mexico border, the Rio Grande offers a unique kayaking experience. As the river passes through Albuquerque, it becomes calm and slow-moving. Launching your kayak at the Rio Rancho Bosque Preserve allows you to paddle around 10 miles to the Alameda Bridge in Albuquerque. Wildlife enthusiasts will delight in the chance to spot local fauna along the way. Kayak rentals and tours are available in both Bernalillo and Albuquerque.
Surrounded by picturesque ponderosa pine forests, Fenton Lake is a tranquil oasis ideal for kayaking. Located within Fenton Lake State Park, this scenic lake offers calm waters that are perfect for beginners and kayak anglers alike. Enjoy the stunning views of the Jemez Mountains as you paddle along. The lake boasts a dedicated boat launch, as well as camping and picnic areas. With no motorized vessels allowed, except for electric trolling motors, you can truly relax and enjoy your kayaking experience. Off-site kayak rentals are available in Bernalillo.
For wildlife enthusiasts, Heron Lake is a must-visit kayaking destination. This serene lake is home to a variety of wildlife, including raptors, bears, elk, and even mountain lions. While the lake itself is generally calm and flat, be aware that it can get windy in exposed areas. Take advantage of the sheltered coves or paddle up Willow Creek for a quieter experience. Kayak rentals can be found off-site.
For a truly scenic kayaking adventure, head to the Rio Chama. This National Wild and Scenic River offers a 31-mile section of breathtaking beauty. Starting from El Vado Ranch, you can peacefully paddle through the Chama River Canyon Wilderness, taking in the stunning surroundings. Along the way, you’ll encounter mild rapids that are easy to navigate. Camping is available alongside the river, allowing you to truly immerse yourself in nature. Outfitters in La Junta and Pilar offer kayak rentals and guided tours.
New Mexico Kayak Laws
Before embarking on your kayaking adventure in New Mexico, it’s essential to know the relevant laws. While no registration is required for kayaks, certain regulations must be followed. These include wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) at all times, abstaining from boating under the influence, and carrying a Boater Education Card if operating a motorized kayak.
Kayak Rentals and Tours
If you don’t have your own kayak, don’t worry! There are various places in New Mexico where you can rent kayaks or join guided tours. Some outfitters even offer off-site rentals, allowing you to transport the kayak to your preferred paddling location. Here are a few options to consider:
- Zia Kayaks (Elephant Butte Lake, Fenton Lake, Heron Lake – rentals)
- Quiet Waters Paddling Adventures (Rio Grande, Fenton Lake, Heron Lake – rentals and tours)
- New Wave Rafting Funyak Rentals (Rio Grande – rentals and tours)
- New Mexico River Adventures (Rio Chama – rentals and tours)
Kayaking in New Mexico offers a unique and captivating experience. Whether you’re exploring the serene lakes or paddling along the scenic rivers, you’re sure to create unforgettable memories. Remember to always prioritize safety and respect the natural environment. So grab your paddle, put on your PFD, and get ready to embark on your next kayaking adventure in the Land of Enchantment!
Don’t forget to share this article with your fellow paddlers, and let us know how your next trip goes. Happy kayaking!