Heron Lake is a small reservoir situated in Rio Arriba County in the north-central portion of the US State of New Mexico. Heron Lake was formed when the 80m high Heron Dam was built in 1971 on Willow Creek, just above the meeting point of Willow Creek and the Rio Chama rivers. The lake has been named after the engineer Kenneth A. Heron. With a surface area of 5,900 acres, Heron Lake is the fifth largest lake in New Mexico.
Geography Of Heron Lake
Heron Lake is a storage reservoir that sits at an elevation of 2,190m. Water from the San Juan River Basin travels across the Continental Divide to be stored in Heron Lake for use in the Rio Grande Basin further south. Willow Creek provides the primary inflow source for Heron Lake, and communities, including the cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, use the water from Heron Lake. Heron Lake has a maximum length of 6km and a width of 5km. The lake holds a water volume of 401,000 acre-feet. The area surrounding Heron Lake was declared a State Park in 1973. Several campgrounds dot the lakeshore, but no food or other accommodations are available in the park.
Aquatic Life In Heron Lake
The shores of Heron Lake are covered with meadows, ponderosa pine, and Gambel oak. The shoreline provides a habitat for raptors such as bald eagles and osprey and mammals such as mountain lions, black bears, elk, deer, and marmot. Some of the fish found in Heron Lake include rainbow trout, brown trout, lake trout, kokanee salmon, and the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow.
Lake Heron is a designated “quiet” lake, meaning that boats may travel at speeds that do not generate wake. Beach and boat-in campgrounds dot the lake’s shores. The five-mile Rio Chama Trail starts east of the dam with a dramatic suspension bridge section and goes to El Vado Lake State Park. Heron Lake State Park also offers the 2.4-mile East Meadow Trail, which traverses forest and meadow and passes impressive cliffs, and the five-mile Salmon Run Trail. In winter, visitors can cross-country ski in Heron Lake State Park. Sailing, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, and birding are also popular activities. The lake is renowned for fishing, including ice fishing during winter. In November, December, and January, kokanee salmon fishing is permitted.