(The Center Square) – The Land of Enchantment boasts stunning locales for rafting, kayaking, boating, paddle boarding and fishing, but as temperatures rise and water levels fall but rain doesn't, some recreation areas are drying up.
One lake showing drastic change is Elephant Butte. James Glover, co-director for EndeavOR, an outdoor-recreation business alliance, said for lake-based recreating, Elephant Butte is one of the major locations.
“Elephant Butte probably is the biggest lake in southern New Mexico where on a Fourth of July weekend over a 100,000 people could go out to the lake to experience the water activities,” Glover told The Center Square.
Billy Jack Miller, who owns a fishing company that operates in Elephant Butte, has observed the lake shrink over his lifetime.
“The lake used to be 44 miles long,” Miller told the New Mexican. “Now it’s six or seven, as the crow flies.”
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation projects the lake to have evaporated to 1% of its capacity by August, the New Mexican reported.
Glover points out that people are undaunted.
“I know that water levels are dropping a bit in the Elephant Butte area, but there’s still a lot of people getting out and enjoying the water,” he said.
Glover is sanguine about the resilience of New Mexico’s aquatic recreation businesses.
“I think the businesses understand that when they set up shop on the water to go out and use it, some seasons are going to be stellar and some seasons are going to be down,” he said.
Elephant Butte Mayor Edna Trager saw an opportunity to diversify the water-based community’s recreation economy through Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) recreation. At her behest, an EndeavOR representative evaluated the area for its potential and ended up starting the Elephant Butte Adventure Center OHV-ing business.
Glover says people can choose a mode of recreation in accordance with the water levels of the lake.
“What’s interesting about the state of New Mexico is that water levels have been going up and down for thousands of years,” he said. “Our Native Americans tried to figure out ways to conserve water and use water in a way that made sense.”
Right now, he says, Santa Fe is getting rain, adding that it really just depends on what the weather is doing. In other areas of the state like Taos to the north, Glover says rafting companies are doing well.
“At the moment, everything seems to be moving rather smoothly,” he said. “Our rafting companies seem to be doing well.”