Ugh. Who else is tired of how it’s springtime in the rest of the country while it’s STILL SNOWING here? Between the rain, the random snowflakes, and the impending mudslides, I’m ready to celebrate summer whether the weather is ready or not. Instead of shaking my fist at the clouds shouting, “Go home, Colorado, you’re drunk,” you’ll find me at Lake Nighthorse. The lake opened on weekends starting in early April, but it finally opened on a daily basis as of May 1.
Honestly, I don’t even care if it’s nice outside; so long as it’s sunny, I’m all in. It’s kind of hilarious to paddle around in a lake that’s still surrounded by snow. That said, I certainly don’t want to accidentally fall in (that water is COLD). In spite of the frigid water temps, it’s time to be brave. Take advantage of those random 75 degree highs and get your ass out there, because winter was long for those of us who don’t ski. (I know, I know, I moved to the wrong town.)
If you haven’t been to Nighthorse yet, you’ll fall in love as soon as you arrive at the boat ramp. While it is a man-made lake, it’s located on sacred ground and the setting is kind of magical. The super clear water glows a bright greenish-blue, while snow-covered peaks and lush, green hillsides surround the lake on all sides. The view and tranquil waters are complimented by the sheer convenience of the whole thing. Nighthorse is a short drive from downtown – right about 10 minutes – and there’s plenty of parking.
The 1,500-acre lake was only opened to the public last year after years (and years) of development, but they’ve been stocking it with fish since 2011. That means there are some monster catches in that bad boy. The day we went, someone reeled in a 26-inch, 6-pound brown trout! The tug-is-the-drug mentality is all you really need to motivate a day of fishing, but it’s even better when you pull out a competition worthy fish. And, it’s one of only a handful of places in Colorado where you can catch Kokanee salmon.
But it’s not all about fishing. You can soak in the views by picnicking on the banks, or get moving and hike around much of the perimeter. Bring your stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, or sailboats (if that’s even a thing in Durango) to splash around in the waters for a few hours. There are some no wake zones, and there are a few full on wakeless days and times during the week that are reserved for us glutton-for-punishment kayakers. You can even drop in for kayak football on Monday nights and SUP hockey on Wednesday evenings.
Of course, if you have a motorized boat, you can bring that too, but keep your jet skis at home because those are a no-go at Nighthorse. The city also prohibits houseboats on the lake, so don’t look to it as a solution to your housing problem.
Drop in for the day for $8 (or $3 if you’re on foot or bicycle). If you think you’ll be back more than a few times, go in for a 5-punch pass for $30 or pick up a season pass for $70. For a full list of rules and regulations, check out their website.