Elephant Butte Reservoir, the largest lake in New Mexico, is a large, deep reservoir with fluctuating water levels. Elephant Butte, created by a dam in 1916 across the Rio Grande, was constructed to provide for irrigation and flood control. The lake is 40 miles long with more than 200 miles of shoreline. The area surrounding the lake is almost wholly managed by NM State Parks. Bureau of Reclamation, however, controls the water levels.

Directions: State Park Headquarters is 5 miles north of Truth or Consequences on Exit 83 off I-25. Maps are available at Park Headquarters.

Ornithological Summary

The site hosts the largest concentration of wintering Aechmophorus grebes in the state (winter 1993-98, 6000 individuals average, 15300 individuals maximum). Large numbers of gulls and other waterbirds migrate through and winter here. When water levels are low, large shorebird numbers may congregate in appropriate areas in migration. Attracts large numbers of rarer water birds.

Sources: C. Rustay personal observations, New Mexico Bird Finding Guide, Christmas Bird Counts for Percha/Caballo and Bosque del Apache

Conservation Issues

During summer months this area can receive a huge influx of vacationers potentially disturbing the birds.


New Mexico State Parks, P.O. Box 13, Elephant Butte, NM 87935, 505-744-5923

Bureau of Reclamation

Land Use

Recreational uses are fishing, boating, camping, and picnicing.

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