Elephant Butte Lake State Park encompasses New Mexico's largest body of water, with 36,500 lake surface acres. It's one of the most popular state parks in New Mexico, attracting watersports enthusiasts and fishers from throughout the south and central regions of the state. Fishing for white bass, black bass, catfish, walleye, crappie, and stripers goes on year-round. Trout are stocked in the Rio Grande below Elephant Butte Dam. The park has sandy beaches for tanning and swimming (though don't expect the white sands of the Cayman Islands here). You can also find boating, sailing, water-skiing, windsurfing, jet-skiing, scuba diving, nature trails, and camping. Beware of going to the lake on summer weekends -- Fourth of July and Labor Day weekend in particular -- when the crowds are overwhelming. However, in the other seasons and during the week in summer, it's a quiet place.
Bird-watchers also enjoy the park, spotting hundreds of species, including bald eagles, great blue herons, and more than 20 species of duck during migrations in spring and fall. The lake was named for a huge rock formation that makes an island; before the inundation that created the lake, it clearly looked like an elephant. Today, it's partially submerged.
The park is about 5 miles north of Truth or Consequences via I-25. For more information, call tel. 575/744-5923.
About 18 miles south of Truth or Consequences via I-25 is another recreation area, Caballo Lake State Park (tel. 575/743-3942), which, like Elephant Butte, has year-round watersports, fishing, swimming, and campsites. The lofty ridge of the Caballo Mountains just to the east of the lake makes a handsome backdrop. Park facilities include a full-service marina with a shop for boaters and full hookups for recreational vehicles.
Reached from the same exit off I-25 is yet another recreation area, Percha Dam State Park (tel. 575/743-3942), a lovely shaded spot under great cottonwood trees, part of the ancient bosque, or woods, the Spanish found bordering the Rio Grande when they first arrived in this area in the 1530s. The dam here diverts river water for irrigation. The park offers campsites, restrooms and showers, hiking trails, and access to fishing.