Eleanore - Coachmen Freelander
Eleanore - Coachmen Freelander
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Navajo Lake State Park is one of the most popular summer recreation areas in New Mexico. The man-made reservoir is the second largest lake in the state with over 150 miles of shoreline. Camping, boating, fishing, hiking, and biking are sure to keep you busy for days. Wildlife abounds, including antelope, elk, and mountain lions. If you look up, you might see falcons, osprey, and bald eagles. Start your motorhome camping adventure by booking an RV in San Juan County.
The park itself consists of 21,000 acres and sits at an elevation of 6,000 feet. Navajo Dam was constructed in the late 1950s as a way to control erosion, floods, irrigate farms, and provide recreational opportunities. The dam is over 3,600 feet long and 400 feet high. Five cemeteries and several roads were relocated in the process.
The reservoir is in northern New Mexico, just 100 miles east of the Four Corners area and three hours north of Albuquerque. Farmington, the closest town, was once the home of the Anasazi, Navajo, and Ute peoples. Reminders of their culture are visible throughout the area. Spanish explorers spent some time here, but it wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century when large-scale settlement occurred. Farmington became a large apple farming community, followed by oil and gas, which is the primary industry today.
Water enthusiasts are sure to love camping at Navajo Lake State Park. The lake is home to two marinas where you can rent kayaks, canoes, and even powerboats for waterskiing. The reservoir has numerous small canyons spread out like fingers which you can explore by boat. Beach your craft if you can and jump off the cliffs into the water for an exhilarating way to cool off.
There’s no shortage of fishing opportunities, either. Anglers can cast their lines in the lake from either the shore, a boat, the dam, or one of the wheelchair-accessible fishing piers. Lake species include rainbow and brown trout, Kokanee salmon, northern pike, and bass. Downstream of the dam, in the San Juan River, anglers come from all over the world for fly fishing. Numerous trout records have been set here. Get a guide to take you to the best spots.
Hikers can explore over four miles of hiking trails at Navajo Lake State Park. The South San Juan River Trail is an undulating three-mile trail along the southern shores of the river, with multiple points to stop for a picnic, fish, or watch wildlife. The North San Juan River Trail is shorter at one mile but connects with the Simon Canyon Trail to give you a change in scenery. The trails are not accessible from the campgrounds, but there are multiple parking areas along the river for trail access. Mountain bikers can find terrain for all abilities in the surrounding desert.
There are seven campgrounds at Navajo Lake State Park, and all of them are suitable for rental RVs. In all, 244 RV campsites are available at Navajo Lake. Some of these campsites are seasonal while others remain open year-round. Among the 244 sites, 41 campsites come with 30-amp hookups, 45 sites offer 30-amp and water hookups, 11 sites have 50-amp and water, and eight sites feature 30-amp electric, water, and sewer. Drinking water is available throughout the campgrounds, as well as multiple dump stations. These campgrounds also have bathrooms with flushing toilets, showers, picnic tables, and fire rings. Pets are welcome.
Most of the campgrounds at Navajo Lake are along the southwestern shore of the reservoir, on the road north of the dam. You can rent boats, get basic groceries, or grab a bite to eat at the nearby marina. You can get away from the larger crowds and still have another marina to access by camping across the reservoir at Sims Mesa Recreation Area. This campground also has a dump station and showers. The Cottonwood Campground is further west, nestled next to the San Juan River. If you want immediate access to fly fishing, Cottonwood is probably where you’ll want to be.
Navajo Lake State Park has an excellent visitors' center with educational exhibits near the main entrance. Seeing these exhibits and the surrounding scenery will probably motivate you to see ancient native ruins, and there are plenty nearby. The Frances Canyon Navajo Ruins are 12 miles to the east. To the west, near Farmington, are the Salmon Ruins Museum and Aztec Ruins National Monument, both roughly 1,000 years old. Other historic sites within a few hours drive include Petroglyph National Monument, Chaco Culture National Historic Park, and Mesa Verde National Park.
There are a couple of gas stations near Navajo Dam if you’re in a pinch, but you’ll find more places to refuel your campervan rental in Farmington, 35 miles to the west. This decent-sized city has numerous stores for shopping and grills for eating. There’s also a highly rated children’s science museum in Farmington worth checking out. Heading north out of Farmington will take you to Durango, and south will take you to Gallup. Both of these are great cities to use as jumping-off points for further RV camping in the American southwest.