Located in Sandoval County New Mexico, Jemez Canyon Dam can be found north of the city of Albuquerque. In 1953 the dam was constructed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to successfully control flooding from the Jemez River along with storm control management. While the dam is owned by the Corps of Engineers, it is operated by both the Corps and the Cochiti Lake Project Office.
The dam creates Jemez Canyon Reservoir, which has a water surface of 2.2 square miles (5.69 square km). With the exception of a day-use area with a scenic overlook that is perfect for picnicking, the land surrounding the reservoir is the property of Santa Ana Pueblo and has restricted access. Visitors can enjoy excellent views and a picnic area with shelters and grills. There are additional recreation opportunities not far from the reservoir for visitors to explore; like El Malpais National Monument and Bandelier National Monument.
In addition to its practical purpose, Jemez Canyon Dam offers beautiful scenery and a place to relax, with a variety of areas to explore in the surrounding area.
From Albuquerque, take I-25 for 17.2 miles (27.6 km) to exit 242 for NM-165 E/Placitas toward US 550 W/Bernalillo. Keep left and follow the signs for US-550/Sandoval County Station, merging onto NM-165/US 550 N. Proceed for 2.4 miles (3.8 km) to Tamaya Blvd and turn right, continuing for 5.6 miles (9 km). Jemez Canyon Dam will be on the left.
Parking is available at Jemez Canyon Dam.
There is no public transportation to Jemez Canyon Dam.
About seven miles (11.2 km) from Jemez Canyon Dam is Coronado Campground, which is located off Highway 550 along the Rio Grande. At the campground, you will enjoy unobstructed views of the Sandia Mountains, just like the ancient Pueblos and Spanish conquistadors did during their time in the area. Sites are available for tents, trailers and RV’s with water and electrical hookups available. Toilets and showers are available on-site and reservations can be made for your stay. From the Coronado Campground, you will be able to easily access outdoor recreation opportunities while having quick access to the town of Bernalillo and the city of Albuquerque.
About 60 miles (96.5 km) from Jemez Canyon Dam is Jemez Falls Campground, which is set among Ponderosa Pine next to the east fork of the Jemez River. With Jemez Falls close by, the campground is a popular place for a home base when recreating in the area. The campground offers 52 sites, each with a picnic table and fire ring. RV’s and trailers of up to 40 feet can be accommodated and drinking water and vault toilets are available at the campground. The campground does not offer electric or water hook-ups. Relax at your campsite after a fun day of adventure breathing in the fresh air and taking in the gorgeous scenery.
Jemez Canyon Dam’s day-use Area is perfect for those looking to enjoy a picnic while spending quality time surrounded by nature. The Day Use Area includes picnic shelters that are covered along with raised grills. The area also offers a scenic lookout. Pack up some sandwiches or bring along what you would like to grill and experience an outdoor feast with excellent views. Experience a perfect place to relax for however long you choose.
About 60 miles (96.5 km) from Jemez Canyon Dam are the Jemez Falls in the Jemez Mountains. Part of the Santa Fe National Forest, the falls can be found on the East Fork on the Jemez River. The falls are the highest waterfalls in the Jemez Mountains and can be accessed by taking a hiking trail that can be found at the Jemez Falls Campground and day-use area. The short trail will provide a little exercise and the walk is well worth the view you will be rewarded with!
Owned and operated by the Pueblo of Sandia, the Sandia Lakes Recreation Area encompasses 58 acres of the Rio Grande Bosque and has 20 acres of surface water. Each of the three lakes is stocked with Rainbow Trout in the winter and spring and Channel Catfish in the summer and fall. One of the lakes is a private catch and release lake for those who seek a quiet setting. Fish cleaning stations are available for use, making it easy to prepare your catch. Visit Sandia Lakes Recreation Area and relax and fish in beautiful and peaceful surroundings.
The Middle Rio Grande offers gentle waters that are ideal for a relaxing experience. Quiet Waters Paddling Adventures offer kayak, canoe, stand up paddleboard and raft tours of the area, where you can feel like you are away from it all, without straying far from a metropolitan area. Keep your eyes out for a variety of waterfowl along with wild turkey and beavers. An experienced guide will help ensure you are able to relax and enjoy the beauty of the river and surrounding area.
A quick drive from Jemez Canyon Dam is the Coronado Historic Site and the ruins of Kuaua Pueblo. In 1540, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado came to the Rio Grande Valley near the now historic site as he was searching for the storied Seven Cities of Gold. Rather than find treasure, he encountered a dozen villages home to native farmers, whose ancestors had lived in the area for thousands of years. Kuaua was the most north of the villages. The Coronado Historic Site offers a glimpse into the past of the area, as well as amazing views of the Sandia Mountains.
About an hour from Jemez Canyon Dam is the village of Jemez Springs. An easy drive will bring you to where you can experience hot springs, as well as the culture and history of the area. There are plenty of things to the village, from grabbing a bite to eat, checking out an art gallery, hiking in the Jemez Mountains or soaking in a hot spring. You will experience the sense of culture and history as well as the area’s natural beauty.