Located in the lower Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico, Elephant Butte Lake State Park is a watersport lover’s paradise. Its name is derived from a prominent rock formation, once a volcano, that is said to be elephant-shaped.

During the winter months, Elephant Butte is warm and mild, making it a popular destination for travelers from the north. While the park is centered around the lake, watersports are not the only activities at Elephant Butte.

1. Watersports

  • Fishing – This is probably the most popular watersport at Elephant Butte. There are fishing guides for those who would like more information, and boat rental companies for going out on the water.
  • Swimming – The warm waters of the lake invite swimmers. At some times during the year, the lake water recedes, opening up beach areas.
  • Boating – As noted above, there are boat rental companies at Elephant Butte. Of course, you can tow in your own boat, too. You can also rent jet skis and other watersport equipment. Some people just like to spend the day boating on the lake.
  • Water-skiing – With boats on clear, warm water, water-skiers can’t resist. If you don’t have your own gear, water skis are available for rent at the lake.
  • Scuba diving – The clear waters of the lake are excellent for scuba diving.
  • Canoeing – Also available for rent (or bring your own), canoes and kayaks provide another way to enjoy the water.

2. Other Activities and Sites


Elephant Butte has many areas for camping and picnicking. There are electrical hook-ups for RVs, and some of the campsites have grills and covered shelters. There are lots of amenities geared toward the comfort of the campers – showers, well-marked nature trails, playgrounds, and concession stands provide comfort and convenience.


Campers have described some of the campsites as “no frills,” and that also means no all-night lighting. Star gazers will revel in the lack of peripheral light.

Elephant Butte Dam

Built between 1911 and 1916, Elephant Butte Dam was the largest man-made water reservoir of its time. It is 206 feet high and 1,674 feet long.

Ancient History and Geology

Many millions of years ago, Elephant Butte was under an enormous ocean that was relatively shallow. After the waters of the sea receded, Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaurs hunted and lived there. T-Rex fossils have been discovered at the park, along with many other kinds of fossils. There are exhibits of the historical geology of this ancient dinosaur hunting ground.

Hunter-gatherers lived in this part of the world until 1000 AD, living off the rich diversity of plants and animals. Slowly, humans disappeared from the area, only to return in a modern era.

For a combination of ancient history and modern convenience, the warm and beautiful Elephant Butte Lake Park has something for everyone.