You probably aren’t heading to the high desert expecting to find beautiful, naturally occurring bodies of water. 

But while New Mexico might be perceived as dry, it offers up amazing opportunities for those looking to have some fun in the sun and water. In fact, these bodies of water may be the state’s best-kept secret! Take a read below for some exciting ideas on how best to enjoy New Mexico's lakes and rivers.

Elephant Butte

Striper Bass Fishing at Elephant Butte Lake State Park 

Elephant Butte Lake, located in southern New Mexico, is the state’s largest lake and most popular spot for enjoying the water. It offers up great swimming, waterskiing, boating and more. If you really want a New Mexico True experience, we recommend striper fishing. There are many professional fishing guides in the area that can ensure you get the most out of this experience.

Abiquiu Lake

Boating at Abiquiu Lake

If adventure is your thing, this is an essential stop for you. Abiquiu Lake is in northern New Mexico just 61 miles north of Santa Fe. The lake sits at the base of Pedernal Peak and was featured in many of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings. Get out there and bring a picnic on the scenic cliffs that surround the lake — and pull out your boat while you're at it. Abiquiu Lake is one of only a small handful of lakes in New Mexico that allow for motor boating.

A double kayak and raft navigate the Rio Grande River in New Mexico

Whitewater Rafting the Rio Grande

The second-longest river system in the United States, the Rio Grande River is magnificent in and of itself. But to truly soak it in and appreciate its beauty, we recommend taking one of the whitewater rafting tours. If you are a thrill seeker opt for the more challenging Taos Box. The river’s other rafting section, the Racecourse, is easier and better suited for families or beginners. Both runs boast beautiful scenery and wildlife, so you can’t go wrong. 

Camping along the Gila River in New Mexico

Canoeing the Gila

The Gila River in western New Mexico is one of the few remaining undammed, free-flowing rivers in the United States and the only one in the state. With out-of-this-world scenery, premier birding opportunities and clear water, this river is ideal for canoeing or kayaking.

Heron Lake

Swimming in Heron Lake State Park

Heron Lake is located in New Mexico’s northern mountains. This is a popular spot for fishing, boating and tubing on the weekends. But, if you want a more quiet way to enjoy this beautiful lake, we recommend finding one of the many secluded coves for swimming.

Scuba Diving at Blue Hole

The Blue Hole has earned Santa Rosa, New Mexico the title of scuba diving capital of the southwest. It’s a natural, bell-shaped pool that is 80 feet deep, has astonishing clarity and a constant water temperature of 61 degrees. It’s perfect for swimming and diving so don’t forget your gear.

Paddle boarders on Lea Lake in New Mexico

Take a dip in Lea Lake

Lea Lake is the only lake in the Bottomless Lakes State Park where swimming is permitted and is one of the most beautiful underappreciated lakes in New Mexico. With sandy “beaches,” turquoise water and quartz crystals, also-known-as Pecos Diamonds, Lea Lake is totally unique. But beware, waters can be chilly and deep. We recommend hitting this spot up in the summertime.

Sitting Bull Falls

Hiking To Sitting Bull Falls

Hidden away, about an hour-and-a-half outside of Carlsbad, lies the majestic Sitting Bull Falls waterfall. Take one of the trails for a nice hike, run or bike and then cool off in the water with the beautiful falls in the background.