Colorado State Parks: Navajo Lake

Next up in our series exploring Colorado’s state park is Navajo Lake! Nestled in southwestern Colorado, Navajo Lake State Park provides access to a 35-mile-long reservoir that extends into New Mexico, offering opportunities for outdoor recreation and exploring the surrounding wilderness.

Two sailboats and two houseboats on Navajo Lake at sunset.
Photo from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Navajo Lake State Park opened in 1964 after the Navajo Dam was completed, creating the Navajo Reservoir. The Navajo Dam was constructed as part of the Colorado River Storage Project, along with other major dams like the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River and the Aspinall Unit dams on the Gunnison River. More information about the Colorado River Storage Project can be found in a 1956 informational pamphlet distributed by the Upper Colorado River Commission.

Along with diagrams of all the planned dam projects, the pamphlet includes information on the importance of the Navajo Dam’s construction to the nearby Navajo Reservation. To this day, the Navajo Reservoir stores water for the Navajo Indian Irrigation project, providing water to 110,000 acres of Navajo agricultural land.

Navajo Reservoir is also the centerpiece of the park’s recreational activities. All types of boaters are invited to explore the reservoir’s 15,000 surface acres – as long as they have the Aquatic Nuisance Species stamp required for all Colorado lakes!

From land, visitors can enjoy walking trails and observe the wildlife that frequent the reservoir from the park’s accessible Watchable Wildlife Viewing Area. Several bird species migrate through the Navajo Lake area, including snowy egrets, Townsend’s warblers, and Sandhill cranes, while many other species call the reservoir home year-round. Visitors can keep track of their sitings using the Birds at Navajo State Park bird species checklist.

If you’re an aquatic enthusiast, a visit to “Colorado’s Lake Powell” isn’t one to be missed!