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Spotlight: Elephant Butte

Rugged New Mexico desert meets crystal, refreshing water

Elephant Butte Lake State Park is an outdoor destination with postcard-worthy scenery and an abundance of recreational opportunities. Whether you want to kayak across the calm water or launch a sailboat into the sunset, Elephant Butte satisfies outdoors enthusiasts of all types.

Motorized and nonmotorized boating is permitted on the lake, as are personal watercraft, canoes and kayaks. Fish from a boat on the lake or from the pier, and take advantage of a knowledgeable guide to help you find the best spots for catching walleye, crappie, white and black bass, and stripers.

Elephant Butte Lake has a handful of accessible sandy beaches for relaxing under the New Mexico sun and cooling off in the water. Camping on the beach is permitted and is a great way to watch the sun set over the rocky horizon after a full day on the water.

Geronimo Springs Museum tells the story of the region's Native A

Enchanting Landscapes

The terrain at Elephant Butte looks daunting, but it is an excellent host to four hiking trails that range from primitive paths to paved surfaces. For an easy, scenic loop to traverse, head to the Paseo del Rio campground at the lake’s southern tip. A more adventurous trek awaits visitors on the 10.5-mile West Lakeshore Trail, which runs the length of the lake’s western edge. Look out for jackrabbits and lizards, and enjoy the scenery from points such as Black Bluff Overlook and Fray Cristobal Mountain Overlook.

Elephant Butte is a popular birding destination thanks to the riparian habitat that beckons egrets, herons, pelicans and some unusual gulls. In the scrubby cliffs near Rock Canyon, keen-eyed watchers can spot sparrows and horned larks.

Hunting with a state-issued license is a permitted and popular pastime in the area around Elephant Butte Lake. Big game pursuits focus on antelope, desert bighorn, deer and elk. Bird-hunting adventures are built around healthy populations of mallards, canvasbacks, wigeons and teals. Also around Elephant Butte, hunters will find opportunities to hunt turkey, quail and dove—check out guided opportunities to ensure a successful hunt.

Away from the lake, golfers are welcome at Turtleback Mountain Resort for a game or two on the Sierra del Rio course. The 18-hole championship course winds over various elevation changes with a scenic backdrop featuring the Turtleback Mountain Range and the Rio Grande, as well as 89 bunkers and four lakes.

The resort community of Elephant Butte hosts events year-round including a hot air balloon regatta, Elephant Days Festival, Oktoberfest, a luminaria beach walk and a floating lights parade on the lake.

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Face the Truth or Consequences

Visit a town with one of the quirkiest names around—Truth or Consequences—and soak in the hot springs that have made this a prime resort community. Out of a rift along the Rio Grande, thermal hot water flows freely to the surface at temperatures between 98 to 115 degrees. Trace elements of 38 different minerals have been detected in the water, and these minerals are believed to hold many health benefits for visitors to the Hot Springs Bathhouse Historic and Commercial District.

Downtown Truth or Consequences is home to Geronimo Springs Museum. This gem is home to Old West artifacts including pottery and arrowheads, as well as a re-created miner’s cabin and a room devoted to the famous Apache shaman, Geronimo.

Pay respects to the men and women who served on behalf of their nation at the Hamilton Military Museum, where exhibits memorialize the lives and work of soldiers, sailors and marines in major conflicts. The museum is adjacent to a Vietnam War Memorial replica on the grounds of Veterans Memorial Park in Truth or Consequences.

West of Elephant Butte, the living ghost town of Cuchillo draws visitors to explore the San Jose Catholic Church, built in 1907, and the supposedly haunted Cuchillo Bar. If a daytrip with stunning scenery suits you, head out to the town of Chloride, at the western edge of Sierra County. Just 11 residents call this former mining town home, and visitors can wander through the old Pioneer Store that serves as a museum before visiting the Monte Cristo Saloon and Dance Hall, which today operates as a gallery featuring works by local artists.

Further to the south, a trip to Las Palomas reveals another living ghost town. With fewer than 200 residents today, Las Palomas still has an active Catholic church and is a gateway to Indian pueblo ruins that date to around A.D. 500. Kingston tells yet another tale of mining boom-and-bust; here, hotels put up Mark Twain, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and other characters, both famous and infamous, during the town’s heyday.

Today the Percha Bank Museum opens on weekdays to share artifacts and local artists’ creations.

For More Information

Elephant Butte Chamber of Commerce
New Mexico Tourism Department