Saturday, May 11, 2019

State Parks building a new tent campground on the San Juan River

The San Juan River at Simon Canyon below Navajo Dam - Spring 2019.
Campers will soon have a new place to pitch a tent on the banks of the San Juan River at Navajo Lake State Park.

“We’ve got some of the best fly-fishing in the Southwest and lots of visitors asking for tent sites so we’re excited to finally be able provide them some right on the river,” said Chris Smith, superintendent at Navajo Lake State Park.

The state park in northwestern New Mexico features the state’s top trout fishery in the river below Navajo Dam. The reservoir above is regarded by many as the state’s best smallmouth bass fishery.

The park saw over a half million visitors in fiscal year 2018 with about half of them visiting the five miles of river within the park, Smith said.

The park offers camp sites on the river at Cottonwood Campground where the availability of a dump station and full hookups of water and electricity at all 48 sites draws many visitors with travel trailers or motor homes.

But the persistent demand for tent sites resulted in plans to build a new “dry” campground on 66 acres of state owned land on the south side of the river just upstream of the Crusher Hole day use area.

Site of the new dry campground on Navajo Dam Lake State Park's Johnson Tract.
The new campground should be complete by 2021 and is slated to feature two vault toilets and 20 pull-through sites each with a shelter, campfire ring and picnic table. 

Native shade trees and other vegetation will be planted throughout the campground, Smith said. A new pump house and acequia has already been constructed on the site to draw water from the river for irrigation purposes.

Cost to construct the new campground is estimated at $1.1 million with much of the funding coming from a grant through the recently re-enacted federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. Royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling are earmarked for the fund which provides grants to purchase land for outdoor recreation and other public benefit.

The San Juan River has long been a top trout fishing destination for anglers due to a huge population of large trout of and many miles of public access.  The river’s draw brings in an estimated $30 to $40 million annually to the state’s economy with much of that generated from of out-of-state anglers, according to economic and other published studies.

Fisheries biologist Marc Wethington of the N.M. Dept. of Game & Fish shows off just one of the many beautiful trout that can found lurking in the waters on the San Juan River below Navajo Dam.

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