Conchas Lake State Park is a 293-acre state park that is situated on the coastline of the Conchas Lake, a beautifully clear 25-mile long reservoir lake in northeastern New Mexico, around 75 miles southeast of Las Vegas, NM. There are 74 developed campsites, each with a barbeque grill, fire ring, and a covered picnic table, as well as several primitive sites. It is a popular spot for boating, fishing, and swimming both with travelers and with locals. If you transport any sort of boat when traveling in your campervan, this is a prime spot to put the vessel to good use as the lake is large enough to accommodate kayaks, fishing boats, windsurfers, and even larger houseboats, and there are several secluded coves and inlets to explore.
The rock and stone that can be found in the park are mostly made up of sandstone and silt stone laid down in prehistoric times. Fossils and prehistoric petroglyphs can sometimes be found along the beaches and trails. Anglers are likely to have a great deal of success fishing as the Conchas Lake is well-stocked by the New Mexico Department of Fish and Game and there are several species of fish just waiting to be caught. The state park is also home to a large variety of wildlife, including elk, deer, bald eagles, squirrels, bobcats, and wild turkeys, many of which can be spotted when traveling the many hiking trails available in the area. With so much to see and do, this is a lovely spot to take an RV vacation to get away from it all.
The Conchas Lake State Park is 114 miles southeast from Las Vegas, NM and 165 miles east of Albuquerque. The nearest small town with amenities is Tucumcari, which is situated approximately 30 miles southeast of the campground. Depending on where you are coming from, your route may take you over the narrow road on the Conchas Dam, particularly if you are wanting to get to the launch ramps on the North Cove.
The turn on to Big Mesa Ave from the south is very sharp and may be difficult to navigate. Campers heading to the Southside Recreation Area Campground can either continue up the road a bit and turn around at the 104 Store, so that they can approach Big Mesa Ave from a northerly direction, or they can continue north along the Bell Ranch Road until they reach the next left-hand turn, Lodge Road, which is a much easier turn when coming from the south.
The Central Recreation Area Campground is further north along the coastline and can be reached by turning west from either Bell Ranch Road or Lower Dam Highway. Most of the roads in the campground area itself are paved two-lane roads, but a few of the roads to the campsites themselves are narrower dirt roads.
There are 24 sites with water and electric that you can reserve, 16 sites with just water, and seven developed sites with water nearby. The sites are generously sized and each has a covered picnic table, a fire ring, and a pedestal barbecue grill, but bans on wood and coal fires are common when the risk of fire is high.
Reservations for these sites can be made anywhere from one day to six months in advance of the trip. One sleeping unit and one additional vehicle are allowed at each site. If you have reservations, but find that you are going to reach the park later than 4 PM, make sure you call ahead. Reserved sites may be offered to first-come, first-served customers if they are not occupied by 4 PM.
Pets are allowed but must be kept under control. They must either be contained within the camper or a crate, or be restrained with a ten foot or shorter lead and cannot be left at the campsite without supervision. There is a dump station situated at the entrance to the dump station. Generator use is allowed during the daytime but prohibited during the camp’s quiet hours, between 10 PM and 7 AM.
Lake Conchas State Park may also be a good option for those who are making a spontaneous trip through New Mexico or that have a more flexible travel schedule. There are nine sites with water and electric that are available on a first-come, first-served basis, as well as 17 water-only sites and one ADA-accessible site. One sleeping unit and one additional vehicle are allowed at each site.
The first-come, first-served sites are nearly identical to the sites available for reservation. These generously sized sites come equipped with covered picnic tables, fire rings, and pedestal barbecue grills. Keep an eye out for posted signs as bans on wood and coal fires are common when the risk of fire is high in this area. Pets are welcome, but cannot be left unattended at the campsite and must be under physical control at all times either on a ten foot or shorter lead or in the RV or a crate.
Reserved sites may also be offered to first-come, first-served customers if they are not occupied by 4 PM.
The silt stone and sandstone found in this area was laid down around two hundred million years ago. At that time, much of the area was along the edge of an inland sea, and dinosaur fossils and tracks can sometimes be found embedded in the rocks that are located along the Conchas Lake’s 60 miles of shoreline, including the areas found in the state park itself. Other relics, such as prehistoric petroglyphs left by the Indian groups that used to live in this region, can also be located.
There is a large variety of wildlife available for viewing and photography. Elk and Mule Deer frequent the area on a regular basis, as do a plethora of smaller mammals and reptiles. If you are patient you may even get an image of the more occasional visitors to the area such as mountain lions, bobcats, and fox. If birds are your passion, both bald eagles and wild turkeys are often seen, as well as bluebirds, doves, ducks, and several species of hawks.
Don't forget to pack your fishing gear in your camper or rig. The Conchas Lake contains a variety of species for sportsmen, including walleye, largemouth and white bass, shad, sunfish, bluegill, crappie, and both flathead and channel catfish. It is regularly stocked by the New Mexico Department of Fish and Game and fishing is generally good year round, but the best time to catch walleye and crappie is in the spring and fall months. It is important to note that fishing off of the boat docks is prohibited and while there is a 12-inch minimum size limit for smallmouth bass in most New Mexico waters, the limit at Conchas Lake is 14 inches.
Conchas Lake has clear water in most areas, making it a popular spot for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving. There are no specified swimming beaches and no lifeguards, so it is important to use common sense when swimming. Avoid areas where people are fishing, know the approximate depth before jumping off of the rocky coastline, and bring a swimming buddy along.The majority of swimmers prefer to swim either near the Cove Campground situated in the North Recreation area or in the Central Recreation area.
If you are hauling a boat on your trailer you are in luck. Boating is a very prevalent activity on the 16,033-acre Conchas Lake, both within the state park and further out. There are several public boat ramps in the park itself; five of them in the north area and four in the south, and boats on the lake typically range from kayaks and canoes to large houseboats. There are many secluded areas like coves and inlets to explore and it is also a popular spot for water skiing and jet skiing.
The hiking trails in and around Conchas Lake State Park have a little something for everyone. Those interested in seeing wildlife they may spot animals like elk, mule deer, turkeys, or hawks. Beautiful plants and flowers, spectacular views, and ancient rock formations are sure to inspire any photographer or artist. Those who are interested in prehistoric times may find prehistoric Indian petroglyphs, footprints made by dinosaurs or other prehistoric animals, and possibly even dinosaur fossils. When exploring the trails of Conchas Lake State Park keep an eye on your surroundings so that you don’t wander off the path and on to private property.