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New Mexico Kayaking: Top 9 Places

Kayak in new mexico

Kayak in new mexico

Updated on 6/11/2024
Abigail ScottBy Abigail Scott
Hi, I'm Abigail 👋 Since embarking on my kayaking and boarding adventures in 2010, I've navigated rivers and lakes across North America and beyond. With over a decade of experience and countless waterways explored, I'm here to help enthusiasts like you embark on unforgettable water adventures!
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The local history of New Mexico is vibrant, it reveals secrets in New Mexico Kayaking, and the state also has many natural treasures. Its topography gives rise to breathtaking panoramas as well as an abundance of opportunities for outdoor recreation. The southernmost mountain state in the country, Colorado, is home to some of the most beautiful and challenging kayaking spots.

The fifth-largest state in terms of land area, New Mexico is also the sixth-least populous state in terms of population density in the United States. It reveals several of the most well-guarded secrets in the sport of kayaking. At every location you choose to explore, you will be rewarded with stunning panoramas of cliff faces and forests of ponderosa pines and the opportunity to hear the many songs of the state's abundant birdlife.

While traveling around New Mexico, you are sure to find a location that is just right for you, thanks to the abundance of areas ideal for both novice and experienced kayakers.

Elephant Butte Lake State Park, NM

 Elephant Butte Lake State Park

Elephant Butte Lake State Park

You read it correctly; this New Mexico treasure may be found in the humble town of Truth or Consequences. The city, which has a population of five thousand people, obtained its peculiar name from a radio show. Therefore it is only appropriate that the lake also has a weird name.

If you go all the way around this lake and continue until you reach the brink of the dam, you will discover the meaning behind the lake's namesake. You will be able to make out the profile of an elephant if you see it from this vantage point.

Rio Chama River, NM

rio chama river

rio chama river

The waters of the Rio Chama River remain calm most of its length in the Taos region of New Mexico. The multicolored sandstone canyon walls that rise above guests as they paddle down the river will wow them as soon as they join the water and begin floating downstream.

On top of the beautiful canyon, kayakers will have the opportunity to take in the sights of Indian petroglyphs, an abundance of wild animals, and fantastic birding opportunities.

This region's waters are often very tranquil, making it a good choice for novice kayakers of all ages and abilities, including youngsters and the elderly. There are two stores nearby that provide kayak rental services, so if you are new to kayaking and looking for a place to borrow a kayak while you get the hang of things, you won't have to look far. In addition to providing kayaks, some companies also give kayaking instruction and organize kayaking excursions for groups of people with varying degrees of experience.

Heron Lake State Park, NM

Heron Lake State Park, NM

Heron Lake State Park, NM

This picturesque lake may be found in Lake Ojos. Lofty pine trees surround it, and in the distance, there are mountains visible. Kayaking novices will find Heron Lake, which has no wake zone, an ideal place to hone their skills.

The lake maintains its tranquility and relative silence, with most sounds coming from the surrounding fauna, particularly birds. The recreational area also provides opportunities for hiking, sailing, fishing, and camping at its many spots. Since trout and salmon of record sizes have been taken in these waterways, you should carry a pole with you when you go for a paddle.

Fenton Lake State Park, NM

fenton lake

fenton lake

Fenton Lake State Park, which can be found in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, is home to a pristine lake encircled by ponderosa pines. Not only does the laid-back vibe and peaceful waters of this lake make it ideal for novice anglers, but the lake itself also has an abundance of fish.

Kayak fishing for rainbow trout is quite popular throughout the entire year on Fenton lake. The tourists will be stunned not only by the splendor of the ponderosa pines but also by the Jemez Mountains, which are towering above them.

This lake is popular among campers, anglers, canoeists, and kayakers of all stripes because of its laid-back atmosphere. There are many put-in and take-out spots on the lake and have straightforward access for paddlers of all ages and abilities.

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Navajo Lake, NM, from the pen of Cassi Gurell (CC BY 2.0)

The breathtaking Navajo Lake can be found in Rio Arriba County, right in the middle of the San Juan River Run. When you're in the mood for a relaxing paddle through the great outdoors, Navajo is the ideal route to choose because it begins at Texas Hole and travels along a peaceful canal to the Cottonwood Recreation Area.

Even though the lake has been rated as Class II in the past, it is still relatively easy to paddle on and is suitable for novice or recreational paddlers. It is crucial to remember that a fishing license is necessary for everybody on the lake when they are fishing.

The park features several designated camping areas along the shore of the lake. The standard pay for admittance is a mere $5 per car, and the camp cost is $8 each night.

Upper Rio Chama, NM 

upper rio

upper rio

On the Upper Rio Chama, kayakers will find 16 miles of untouched wilderness to explore when they travel to Rio Arriba County. This portion of the Rio Chama is not for those who are easily intimidated. Most of the river is classified as Class II or Class III, including a stretch known as Big Mama Chama, which is full of stones.

The river has two different points of access to the outside world. One of them can be found in El Vado State Park, positioned just beyond an area of calm water. If flat water isn't your thing, you may paddle 10 miles downstream from the Rio Chama Suspension Footbridge and leave at the Dominguez Escalante Trail. The trail is located at the end of the river. Because it requires you to hike out carrying your kayak, the Dominguez Escalante Trail is an attractive alternative, but it is best suited for vigorous and energetic individuals.

Because the river is surrounded on either side by sheer canyon walls and dense forests teeming with animals, I do not doubt that the entire company will be rendered speechless.

New Mexico's Lower Taos Box 

new mexico

new mexico

This section of the Rio Grande's white water run, which can be found in Taos County, is restricted to paddlers with more experience. Lower Taos is not known for its tranquil waters; therefore, only the most experienced thrill-seekers should attempt to navigate there.

Class IV rapids traverse a narrow canyon, and there is limited opportunity for paddling diversions or rest stops along the route between the put-in and take-out locations. It is in everyone's best interest to arrive at the area with an abundance of paddles, drinks, and food if an unexpected problem arises.

Since kayaks frequent this part, those looking for an exciting experience will find it an excellent location to "stretch their wings," so to speak. There is no need to make reservations or pay any charge to go out on the lake here, which is another advantage of this location.

Rio Embudo, NM

rio embudo

rio embudo

The Rio Embudo, located in Rio Arriba County, is a mighty river that serves as a fitting conclusion to our list.

The Rio Embudo is the ideal location for the experienced kayaker who enjoys paddling over rapids and other challenging water features. There is little room for error in this area, which is comprised of five miles of steep white water kayaking. There are few possibilities to hike out of the water other than the put-in and take-out places recognized by the park service.

The Class V+ rapids that are regularly encountered funneling between even larger rocks are caused by massive boulders, which are to blame for the rapids. It would be best if you went ready for the waters of the Rio Embudo to be churning up a storm and for plenty of opportunities to get soaked as you make your way across the river.

When you are paddling through an area that has white water, you may occasionally have the opportunity to gaze up and be surprised by jaw-droppingly steep canyon walls and lush vegetation. This is something that can happen at any point during the journey.

To provide a quick rundown, the following are the best places in New Mexico for kayaking:

It doesn't matter where you go or where you start when you go kayaking in New Mexico; regardless of where you go or where you start, you'll always have the opportunity to see stunning landscape and make memories that will last with you for the rest of your life.

When picking where to go kayaking, you should take into consideration your degree of experience as well as the level of expertise of any other people who will be joining you on the trip. You should also pay attention to the categorization of the water. If you want to start off with kayaking, you could find that Navajo Lake is an excellent location for practicing the techniques that you have just learned. If you consider yourself to be an experienced paddler, Rio Embudo is most likely going to be a more suitable option for you than Rio Embudo.

New Mexico is home to several natural wonders and its rich cultural heritage, which may be explored through New Mexico Kayaking.