5 Excellent Places for Beginners to Kayak in New Mexico

5 Excellent Places for Beginners to Kayak in New Mexico


When the weather really heats up, New Mexico is full of adventure opportunities that give you a taste of the great outdoors. Kayaking is a supreme way to explore stunning natural spaces with friends and family. And if you’re inexperienced, don’t you worry! You can take along a guide or participate in a few lessons before heading out. Here are five great spots to start off your kayaking adventure in New Mexico. 

1. Rio Grande River, Albuquerque, NM

The Albuquerque stretch of this river provides a gentle and safe place to learn how to kayak. This is a family-friendly experience on calm water with no technical rapids. The best time to float on this stretch is in the spring runoff season—it’s a little deeper than in the summer time. There are a number of places to launch, too. Generally, most river bridges have walking access to the river. Overall, this is a spectacular way to see wildlife in Albuquerque. 

2. Fenton Lake State Park, Jemez Springs, NM

Nestled in the Jemez Mountains up the road from town is this beautiful, pristine lake, ringed by ponderosa pines. The vibe here is mellow. It’s a perfect place to put a kayak on the water and learn how to paddle. The Rio Cebolla meanders through the park, too. Even at 7,650 feet, the lake is easily accessible, but is at its best in spring and summer. Take your pole for some kayak fishing. You might just hook a rainbow trout.

3. Elephant Butte Lake State Park, Truth or Consequences, NM

This lake is 40 miles-long with 200 miles of shoreline. You could go from a beginner to expert kayaker paddling all 40 miles. The warm climate of southern New Mexico makes this a popular place year-round. The sandy beaches are ideal for staging prior to launching a kayak. Paddle near the dam, that regulates the Rio Grande River, and you’ll get a great perspective on the geological formation for which the lake is named (that presumably resembles an elephant). 

4. Rio Chama River

The area of the Rio Chama, a tributary of the Rio Grande, is known for its tranquil waters, unlike the white water farther up river. It’s just right for children, seniors, and anyone who’s looking for a relaxing day on the water. Drift along past sightings of Indian petroglyphs, river animals, and some of the best birdwatching around.

Together at last! #riochama

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5. Cochiti Lake, Pena Blanca, NM

This is a no-wake lake. That makes it an excellent place to kayak without the stress of boats tearing around the lake making waves. It’s located within the boundaries of the Pueblo de Cochiti Indian Reservation and was created when the Cochiti Dam, one of the largest earth-fill dams in the U.S., was constructed. There are two public areas: the Cochiti and the Tetilla Peak Recreation areas. A fun place for families looking for a first-time kayak experience with kids. There are incredible wildlife viewing opportunities, too.