“Charette Lake still holds plenty of water and fish,” says Clint Henson of the Department of Game and Fish’s northeast area office in Raton.”And not a lot of people get up there too often.”
Located about 15 miles off I-25 between Wagon Mound and Springer in northeast New Mexico the Charette Lakes refuge provides a remote haven for wildlife and humans alike.
The shallow, 100-acre upper lake has gone dry due to the drought but the much deeper and bigger lower lake has survived despite a lack of snowpack runoff and heavy summer rains over the past few years.
The lower lake spans over 300 acres and is anywhere from 60 to 90 feet deep when at its fullest.
But Henson says the lake level looks like it has dropped about 30 feet over the last few years.
Recent monsoon rains should help bring it back up some, he adds.
During a recent mid-week overnight visit there was no one else to be found camping around the rocky shoreline where colorful cactus flowers bloomed and antelope grazed amid the grass.
There are numerous concrete picnic tables, sturdy vault toilets and fairly level camp sites strategically situated around the lake for public use.
But during the author’s visit it was a couple of rising trout in a cove at dusk that provided plenty of entertainment as they toyed with a fishing fly resembling a grasshopper I repeatedly cast out and danced across the surface.
Unfortunately the receding shoreline left the boat ramp out of the water and getting a small boat armed with a fish finder out onto the lake to get at them could be a problem.
Fly fishing anglers might want to try a damsel fly pattern or a stimulator trailing an ant on the surface or fishing bigger nymphs real deep.
But the real beauty of this place might be the lack of company and space to breath.
Those who like to explore will find a deep canyon off the southeast corner of the lake through which the creek flows and the dry surface of the upper lake might be of interest to some, too.
Bring everything you will need when you go because it’s a long way back to town. You’ll also need to pack out what you brought in.
The history behind the lakes is murky but some details were discovered during an online search.
The state Game Commission purchased the lakes and water rights in 1949 from an irrigation company apparently created by land speculators who were selling farms on the edge of the plains to settlers.
The rail line would allow trains to save time and avoid the laborious climb over Raton pass to ship cattle and timber to the railheads in Kansas.
The railroad laid track to within about 35 miles of the town before World War II erupted and put an end to the ambitious plan. The tracks were then pulled up and melted down for scrap metal for the war effort.
The town of Colmor, so named due to its location straddling the Mora and Colfax county lines, is now a ghost town with its ruins on private land still visible off the frontage road between Wagon Mound and the Charette Lakes turnoff.
Charette Lakes may be named after a French trapper and trader as a mountain man-era pack trail ran within three miles of the lakes which are formed from natural depressions in the volcanic rock.