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Abiquiu Lake

Lake, River, or Waterfall
Beautiful Abiquiu Lake – Wenche Zimmerman

ADA Accessibility Notes

The majority of our facilities are ADA accessible.

Abiquiu Lake (pronounced Ab-Ba-Que), is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque District’s northern most flood control reservoir in the state of New Mexico. Abiquiu Lake sits placidly between the rugged Sangre de Cristo and San Juan Mountain ranges of northern New Mexico. At an elevation of 6,400 feet, the project rests comfortably within the Piñon Pine/Juniper life zone, and is possibly the highest reservoir in the Corps of Engineers. It is part of a comprehensive flood and sediment control plan for the Rio Chama-Rio Grande Basins. The 2,860 acre project is 1,621 miles upstream from where the Rio Grande empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Abiquiu Lake is fed a diet of cold, clear, transmountain water which is diverted from the San Juan Mountains in south-central Colorado, and piped under the continental divide into the Rio Chama approximately forty-seven pristine miles upstream from the project.

Towering 340 feet above the Rio Chama, Abiquiu Dam is the tallest earthen structure in New Mexico, but is dwarfed by the nearby 9,862 Cerro Pedernal Peak. This flat-topped sentinel dominates the landscape of Abiquiu, and is composed mostly of flint-a metamorphic rock which for centuries has been used to start fire-hence the name. Standing on Pedernal’s summit, where the sun on your face shines with unimaginable intensity, Abiquiu Lake appears far below as a brilliant blue opal, in stark contrast to the high desert surrounding it. Cerro Pedernal is perhaps best immortalized in the drawings and paintings by one of the region’s most well known residents-artist Georgia O’Keefe. She was profoundly influenced by the natural beauty and isolation of Abiquiu and her paintings of the Rio Chama and the dusty red and maroon foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains hang on the walls of prestigious art galleries in Santa Fe, New York and around the world.

Water-the geologic shape-shifter that molded Cerro Pedernal millennia ago-also gives life to the Chama Valley. There is a saying in New Mexico…“Sin agua, no hay vida.” Without water, there is no life. Although most of the water impounded by Abiquiu Dam is destined for Albuquerque, the states largest metropolitan area, some water flows through acequias (irrigation ditches) that channel life-sustaining water to the arid land. Acequias came to New Mexico with the Spanish Conquistadores nearly 400 years ago and are the lifeblood of Hispanic rural communities in the Rio Chama Valley. Acequias play an important role in the formation of communities; whose livelihood centers around watering crops, such as chile and beans and raising livestock, as it has been done for centuries. Checking compuertas (head-gates for the acequias), especially during high runoff periods, and strengthening community ties with the Mayordomos (ditch bosses), is an everyday component of water management for the staff at Abiquiu Lake.

Pet Friendly Notes

Pets are allowed but must be kept on a six (6) ft. leash in public areas.

Recreational Opportunities

Recreation Opportunities

Boating: Abiquiu Lake is open to year-round boating. The Cerrito Recreation area has one main boat ramp for the launching of motorized vessels and a high water ramp for launch of non-motorized vessels depending on lake level.

Camping: The Riana Campground is located on a 150 foot rock bluff overlooking Abiquiu Lake at 6,400 feet above sea level. The Riana Campground hosts 54 campsites. A number of sites include electric hookups and water hookup, shelters, grills, lantern holders and tent pads. Other facilities include a play structure, showers, dump station, picnic and fishing areas.

The campground is open April 15-Oct 15 and fees range from $5-$14. On sites 1-39 only, you can have 2 camping units but only one unit can be a wheeled unit. Sites 40-54 are primitive tents sites only with two tents allowed per site. Lake shore access for boat launching is 1 mile from the campground. Primitive camping is permitted free of charge during the off season. During the open season, there is an attendant available at (505) 685-4561. Reservations must be made through the NRRS (National Recreation Reservation Service) at least 4 days in advance.

Group Shelters: Three Group Shelters are available at Abiquiu Lake. Group shelters may be reserved during the fee season April 15 - October 15. The earliest a shelter may be reserved is the first business day after January 1 of each year. Make reservations anytime during the year by calling (505) 685-4561.

Group Shelter #1 is camping designated only. It is located inside the Riana Campground and features 5 picnic tables, one fire-ring, one small and one large standing cooking grill. It has 2-20 amp electric outlets, along with a community water faucet and vault toilets, which are located nearby. Access to showers and playground are available in the campground. Maximum total number of campers for this site is 40. The rental fee is $50.00 a night.

Groups Shelter #2 is the most private of the three shelters, and can be used for camping or day use. It features 4 picnic tables, a fire-ring, one small and one large standing grill. It has an adjacent vault toilet and volleyball court. There is water, but no electricity. The rental fee is $40.00 a day.

Group Shelter #3 is a day-use only shelter and is adjacent to vault toilets, playground and volleyball court. There is water, but no electricity. It features 4 picnic tables, one fire-ring, one small and one large standing cooking grill. The rental fee is $40.00 a day.

Fishing: Walleye, small mouth bass, bluegill, crappie, catfish, and trout are favorites with Abiquiu Lake’s anglers. All areas of the lake are available for fishing year round. The New Mexico Department of Fish and Game Wardens routinely enforce state game laws.

Trails: Abiquiu Lake offers two multi-purpose trails with a combined length of more than 12 miles. The recreational opportunities on these trails include hiking, mountain biking, and nature viewing.

The Old Spanish Trail is 7 total miles in length with 2 miles on the Abiquiu Project. It is located below the dam and connects USACE lands with BLM, USFS, and the Pueblo de Abiquiu. This trail system was originally used by traders going to Los Angeles in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Abiquiu Lake Vista Trail system offers over 5 miles of sustainable single track. It was built by rangers and hundreds of volunteers. It is a stacked-loop design that allows users to determine distances by connecting various lengths of trail loops.

Picnicking: Picnic facilities are available under the trees along the river at the Rio Chama Recreation Area. Facilities are also available with a view of the lake at Cerrito Recreation Area and the Overlook. Each site has a picnic table, barbeque, and shade shelter.

Swimming: Areas available for swimming are within the Cerrito Recreation Area. The High Water Cove is closed to motorized vessels and has a gentle slope for young swimmers. The main boat ramp area has picnic tables, shade shelters, barbeques, and a smaller cove restricting motorized vessels.


Seasons Accessible

Access to the Lake is open year round; however, the campground is open April 15-Oct 15.


Fees range from $5-$14: $5 for tent camping, $10 for pull-in sites, and $14 for electric and water sites.

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