- Parks & Recreation
- Parks, Open Space, Trails
- Lake Nighthorse
Official - Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area
Delayed Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area Opening of Friday April 14, Pending Road Conditions
The temporary road surface connecting the entrance station to the boat ramp parking lot sustained extensive damage during this year’s massive snowfall. The road is currently saturated and severely damaged (above photos). Hopefully, conditions will dry enough to permit vehicular access as snow melts and temperatures increase.
Seasonal closure of Lake Nighthorse is federally required 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, setting new records each year for number of species observed at the lake.
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.
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.
- April 14 – 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
Lake Nighthorse Swim Beach & Wibit Aqua Park
Wibit Aqua Park Open & Lifeguards on Duty: June 3 - September 4, 2023 from 10 am - 6 pm
Swim beach & Wibit rules posted on site, including: no pets, fishing, glass containers, alcohol and/or drugs, or grilling allowed.
NEW for 2023: The Wibit Aqua Park will be available for public use during four daily sessions, the sessions will be one hour and 45 minutes each. There will be a $5 fee per person/per session with a maximum of 60 individuals per session. In-person reservations will open each day at the swim beach building at 9:30 a.m. Each individual must wear a City-provided Wibit life jacket. Children 6 years of age and younger must be accompanied by an adult.
$5 fee per person/per session with a maximum of 60 individuals per session
- 10:00 am - 11:45 am
- 12:00 pm - 1:45 pm
- 2:00 pm - 3:45 pm
- 4:00 pm - 5:45 pm
Activities and Programs offered at Lake Nighthorse
The City of Durango partners with local businesses & organizations to offer recreational opportunities at Lake Nighthorse.
Please contact each business directly for details of their programs:
- 4Corners Riversports offers onsite SUP, kayak, and canoe rentals as well as paddling lessons and group rates for birthday parties or other events. For more information, visit 4CRS website: riversports.com/pages/rentals#nighthorse.
- Duranglers offers guided fly fishing opportunities. For more information, visit Duranglers online at: duranglers.com.
- Peaks & Tides offers sailing classes and clinics for all ages as well as private sailing charters. Contact Peaks & Tides at (970) 903-6036 or email@example.com.
- Southwest Foils offers eFoil lessons and tours for all ages. Contact Southwest Foils at (970) 759-6031. For more information, visit Southwest Foils at southwestfoils.com.
Boat Inspections and Decontamination
MANDATORY BOAT AND TRAILER INSPECTIONS FOR ALL WATERCRAFT THAT ARE NOT HAND-LAUNCHED AND HUMAN POWERED, AND FOR FALSE-BOTTOM RAFTS, AND ARE SUBJECT TO DECONTAMINATION. Lake Nighthorse operates recreational use in compliance with the State of Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) regulations for aquatic nuisance species boat inspections. Please familiarize yourself with the Boater’s Guide to Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Inspections brochure prior to boating at Lake Nighthorse. Colorado Boating Statutes and Regulations are in effect at Lake Nighthorse. Click here for the 2023 Boating Handbook with Regulations and Statutes.
Lake Nighthorse restrictions do not allow jet skis, open-air exhaust boats, or boats with plumbed toilets and sinks at any time.
Ballasted Boat Decontamination Schedule:
- Tuesdays and Wednesdays: No decontamination of ballasted boats
- Thursday through Monday: Decontamination of ballasted boats will be limited to May 15 - Sept 4: 8 am to 5 pm and Oct 1 - Nov 12: 9am - 4pm
Decontamination of non-ballasted boats will be available daily. Ballasted boats with valid green seal and white receipts may launch following incoming inspection and seal removal at any time when the lake is open.
If you have an electric motor or a trailer of any kind, the watercraft, trailer and/or motor must be inspected.
IN ORDER TO RE-ENTER LAKE NIGHTHORSE, ALL MOTORIZED BOATS AND NON-EXEMPT WATERCRAFT ARE ENCOURAGED TO OBTAIN AN EXIT INSPECTION WHERE A GREEN SEAL AND RECEIPT WILL BE ISSUED.
State of Colorado Parks and Wildlife Exempt Watercraft do not require mandatory boat inspections unless the watercraft are trailered. Remember Clean Drain Dry applies to all watercraft in order to protect Lake Nighthorse and waterbodies everywhere. If you are unsure if your watercraft is designated as exempt, stop at the entrance booth and a certified boat inspector will assist you.
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).
Details on fishing regulations and pricing for annual, daily and multi-day fishing licenses can be found in the 2023 Colorado Fishing Brochure (Pesca en Colorado (En Español).
Click here to read the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) 2021 Lake Nighthorse Creel Survey.
ADA fishing dock is located adjacent to the Boat Ramp Parking Lot.
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.
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.
2021 Lake Nighthorse wakeless use public engagement meetings
The City of Durango Parks and Recreation Department invited interested community members to virtual meetings exploring possibilities for adapting management of wakeless use at Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area. The purpose of the engagement process is not to reconsider allowable recreational uses but to discuss opportunities for adjusting the balance of existing recreational uses.
Information from these meetings includes:
- February 22 Meeting Presentation
- February 24 Meeting Presentation
- Public comment sent to firstname.lastname@example.org as of 3-18-21
- Combined Questions and Answers received during these meetings
- March 10 Parks and Recreation Advisory Board adaptive management presentation.
- Lake Nighthorse 2018 Season Report (PDF)
- Lake Nighthorse 2019 Season Report (PDF)
- Lake Nighthorse 2020 Season Report (PDF)
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