Official - Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area

winter closure photo collage1795 C.R. 210, Durango, Colorado - (970) 375-7335 - Lake Nighthorse Live Cam

Lake Nighthorse is closed for the winter season until April 1, 2022  

This federally required seasonal closure is to protect critical winter wildlife habitat at Lake Nighthorse. 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. The Durango Christmas Bird Count conducted on December 18, 2021 set a new record for number of species observed at Lake Nighthorse. The total count of 29 species is up from last year's count of 26 species. This year, observations were made of three rare species:  2 White-winged Scoters, 6 Horned Grebes and 1 Common Loon.  A total of 8 species of birds were observed at Lake Nighthorse that were not found anywhere else within the census area for the count. Click here for the 2021 winter bird count report.

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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.

2022 Hours of operation may vary due to COVID-19. 

  • April 1 – May 8:  Friday, Saturday and Sunday Only; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Non-Motorized Recreation ONLY
  • May 13 – 31: Open Daily; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Motorized Recreation Begins May 15
  • June 1 – August 31:  7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Daily; Guarded Swim Beach Opens June 1  
  • September 1 - September 30: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Daily; Guarded Swim Beach Ends September 5 
  • October 1 – 16:  9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Daily 
  • October 21 – November 13:  Friday, Saturday and Sunday Only; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • November 14:  Winter Wildlife Closure

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

2022 Season and 5-Punch Passes may be purchased in person at the Durango Community Recreation Center located at 2700 Main Avenue, or at Lake Nighthorse beginning April 1. 

5-punch passes are no longer physical punch cards. Simply purchase your 5-punch pass at the Recreation Center in advance of arriving at the lake, then state your name at the entrance booth window and lake staff will electronically deduct a punch from your electronic punch pass.

Day passes may be purchased upon arrival at the lake by credit card, check, or cash.

2022 Park Entrance Pass Options

  • Day Pass Vehicle Entrance  $10
  • Day Pass Walk/Bike Entrance  $4
  • Day Pass Commercial Vehicle $25 
  • 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

 Senior is 62 years and over

Entrance Sign image