Lake Nighthorse Opens After Seven Years of Delays


Corbin Miller, Reporter

In recent years, Durango’s community has been growing immensely, and with that growth comes new recreational facilities to support the increasing population, like newly opened Lake Nighthorse.  

On Sunday April 1, 2018,  Lake Nighthorse publicly opened after delaying its opening for over seven years, when the construction of the lake finished in 2011. The United States Congress approved the water rights of Lake Nighthorse in 1968, but the Bureau of Reclamation did not start construction until 2003.

“Negotiations with the Bureau of Reclamation and members of the Animas-La Plata Operation, Maintenance and Replacement Association, which includes three Indian Tribes, delayed the opening of the lake,” said Director of Parks and Recreation Cathy Metz.  

Lake Nighthorse is a man-made reservoir located near Wildcat Canyon in Durango, Colorado, costing a total of $560 Million to construct after being filled to capacity. It will be used as water-based recreation area to During residents and also area visitors. Lake Nighthorse will also supply water to homes in residential areas like Durango West I and II, Lake Durango, and Rafter J.

For recreational use, visitors will have to pay a fee to enter the lake. Prices range from three dollars, for those biking or walking in, to 70 dollars for an annual vehicle pass.

“We researched comparable facilities and had a comprehensive public engagement process to discuss recreational uses and their prices,” said Metz.

Along with fees to get into Lake Nighthorse, there are regulations those visiting the lake must follow. Fisherman must have a fishing license to be able to fish, owners of dogs must adhere to the Durango leash law, Mondays and Wednesdays are designated no-wake days, and drone use is prohibited.

“The city will be following federal guidelines since Lake Nighthorse is owned by the United States government as well as city regulations consistent with the management of recreational facilities,” said Metz.

Not only do these regulations follow government and city guidelines, but they also help to protect the environment of the lake.  Many aquatic species inhabit the lake, including Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Kokanee Salmon, and many more.

Boating on the lake is not available  until May 15th, 2018 and will be open to boats until November 14th, 2018. For many people who went to Lake Nighthorse the week it 0pened, including Durango High School So. Carson Dellinger, felt that not being allowed to go boating was not an issue.

 “Since we didn’t get to boat, we just walked around the lake and went into the water, but it was still fun. My family and I will probably go back more over the summer once it warms up and boating has opened,” said Dellinger.

As the population of Durango increases, the cities plans to accommodate that growth adjust as well.

“The city has created a master plan for future recreational developments for Lake Nighthorse which can be viewed at the City of Durango’s website,” said Metz.

These future plans include a larger entrance building where visitors checking in can pay fees and obtain information. There will also be a beach area where visitors can swim and relax.  This year, the City will complete the overflow parking lot, install boat docks, and additional no motorized craft buoys.

Lake Nighthorse will be an exciting, new recreational space for many Durango residents and visitors as it will provide many activities specific to the county’s unique environment.