Lake Nighthorse

Lake Nighthorse

Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area is closed for the 2018 season. This closure is federally mandated to protect valuable winter wildlife habitat. The City of Durango would like to thank the community for an eventful first year of public recreation at Lake Nighthorse. View the Lake Nighthorse 2018 Interim Report (PDF)

Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area Map (PDF)
Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area 2019 Brochure (PDF)

Lake Nighthorse Recreation Schedule

Mondays and Wednesdays are NO WAKE days (Except Holidays)

2019 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.

Hours of operation may vary depending on inclement weather. The 2019 hours of operation will be as follows:

  • March 31 – April 28: Friday, Saturday and Sunday ONLY from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • May 1 - 14: Open Daily; 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
  • May 15 – May 31: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m; Motorized recreation begins May 15
  • June 1 – September 2: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • September 3 – 30: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • October 1 – November 14: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • November 15: Winter Wildlife Closure


Boat Inspections

False bottom boats and rafts that have recently been launched in water bodies that are positive for Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) such as Navajo Lake, Lake Powell, and the Colorado River must be inspected. If these water crafts are unable to be decontaminated due to the false bottom, they will be unable to launch at Lake Nighthorse. 

Boats and non-exempt watercraft without an exit inspection documented with a seal and white receipt from another area reservoir or from a known ANS-infected lake such as Navajo Lake will be required to receive a complimentary boat inspection, which may include decontamination prior to entering the water at Lake Nighthorse. Boats with motors that have most recently visited Navajo Lake, which is infected with Eurasian Watermilfoil, a known ANS plant species, will be required to have the motor flushed with hot water to decontaminate the vessel.

All motorized boats and non-exempt watercrafts are encouraged to obtain an exit inspection when leaving area lakes prior to coming to Lake Nighthorse. These inspections are documented by certified officials and verified with a seal and receipt. Out of state motorized watercraft are permitted at Lake Nighthorse, however, boats will be subject to a high-risk inspection and possibly delayed entry dependent upon the findings of the inspection. All decontaminations are dependent upon staff and resource availability.

Lake Nighthorse Entrance Fees

Park Entrance Pass OptionsPrice
Daily Vehicle Entry$8
Daily Walk/Bike-in Entry$3
Season Pass Vehicle (1st for Household)$70
Multiple Vehicle Season Pass (Same Household)$35
Season Pass Senior Vehicle (1st for Household)$60
Multiple Season Pass Senior Vehicle (Same Household)$30
Seasonal Pass Walk/Bike-in$20
Vehicle 5 Punch Pass$30
Senior Vehicle 5 Punch Pass$25
Walk/Bike 5 Punch Pass$10

Purchasing Day Use Passes

All day use passes are non-refundable and may be purchased during hours of operation at the Entrance Station at Lake Nighthorse.

Purchasing Season Passes

2019 Season Passes are NOW Available at the Durango Community Recreation Center. All passes are valid during the 2019 season, April 5 through November 14 and are non-refundable. Passes may be purchased during hours of operation at the Durango Community Recreation Center, or the Entrance Station at Lake Nighthorse. For your convenience, you may fill out the season pass purchase form in advance by selecting the following link, print, fill out and bring with you: Lake Nighthorse Season Pass Purchase Form (PDF).

Purchasing Punch Passes

Gift Cards are NOW Available at the Durango Community Recreation Center, which can be use towards the 2019 Punch Passes on January 2, 2019 or after. All punch passes are are good for 5 daily entrances. Passes are non-refundable and and valid through November 14, 2019. The 5 Punch Pass are transferable and may be purchased during hours of operation at the Entrance Station at Lake Nighthorse or at the Durango Community Recreation Center.

Please note the following:

  • Vehicle Passes require proof of vehicle registration at the time a vehicle pass is purchased. This includes Vehicle, Multiple Vehicle, and Senior Passes.
    • Annual vehicle passes are windshield decals that must be affixed to the windshield of your vehicle to be valid.
    • Removing the decal or passing the decal between vehicles invalidates the pass.
  • Bike or Walk-In Passes may be purchased during hours of operation at either the Durango Community Recreation Center or at the Entrance Station at Lake Nighthorse.
    • If purchasing this pass at the Recreation Center, you will be issued an identification card to show upon entry at Lake Nighthorse.
    • If purchasing this pass at the Entrance Station at Lake Nighthorse, you will be entered into the City database and given a paper receipt for purchase. Your identification card can then be picked up at the Recreation Center at your earliest convenience.

Lake Nighthorse Fishing


All fishing at Lake Nighthorse requires a Colorado Parks and Wildlife fishing license for individuals 16 years of age and older. Please review the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Fishing Brochure prior to fishing at Lake Nighthorse: Fishing Brochure (PDF)

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 in the fall.
  • No fishing around the boat ramp
  • Please put fish entrails in the garbage, not the lake

Lake Nighthorse Aquatic Nuisance Species Boat Inspections

MANDATORY BOAT INSPECTIONS AT LAKE NIGHTHORSE: Lake Nighthorse will operate recreational use in compliance with the State of Colorado Department of Natural Resources regulations for aquatic nuisance species boat inspections of all nonexempt watercraft. Please familiarize yourself with the Boater's Guide to Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Inspections brochure prior to boating at Lake Nighthorse: Boater's Guide (PDF)

Lake Nighthorse Operations

Lake Nighthorse Operations Plan March 2018 (PDF)

The following operational management strategies will be implemented by the City of Durango and Bureau of Reclamation to provide quality recreational experiences:

  • Day Use Only/Fee Area
  • Motorized boats must have a valid state registration from any state and a Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) issued ANS stamp.
  • Leave no trace, dispose of trash in proper receptacles
  • Vehicles and bicycles off road are not permitted
  • Alcohol and/or drugs are no permitted, including marijuana products
  • No glass containers
  • Hazards not marked
  • Disturbance to archaeological resources is prohibited per ARPA of 1979
  • Houseboats that are used as a human dwelling; cabin cruisers with full living quarters on board, including plumbing are not permitted
  • No boats with open-air-exhaust are permitted
  • Adherence to Colorado Parks and Wildlife Fishing Regulations including no live bait
  • No fishing at boat ramp where fish spawning occurs
  • Designated fueling area at the entrance station
  • No fires are permitted
  • There will be a designated no motorized craft area accessible from the Overflow Parking area; Official boats will have access through the no motorized craft area to the public safety personnel dock
  • Motorized personal watercraft (e.g. jet skis) will not be allowed except for special events involving motorized personal watercraft
  • Restricted public access to 25' above high-water level and in developed recreation areas
  • Boats travel in a counterclockwise direction for towed recreation in the open use area
  • Adherence to City, State and Federal Laws
  • Dogs will be permitted, and pet owners will be required to adhere to the City leash law properly dispose of dog waste
  • Non-authorized drone use is not permitted
  • Follow public conduct rules per federal regulations 43 CFR Part 423


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.

Public Meeting Information

Lake Nighthorse Timeline (PDF)

Presentation Highlights from 2-27-18 Community Meeting (PDF)

Public Meeting Summary:

Historical Documents: 

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