Santa Cruz Lake

Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area
Map of Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area

Description: Thirty miles north of Santa Fe, NM, the snow-fed waters of the Rio del Medio and the Rio Frijoles begin a 2,000-mile journey and a 7,000-foot descent to the Gulf of Mexico. For a time they gather at Santa Cruz Lake behind the 125-foot Santa Cruz Dam.

Built in 1929 by the Santa Cruz Irrigation District, the dam is 535 feet across and 90 feet deep at the overflowing spillway. The lake covers 121 surface acres with water in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, providing recreational opportunities for anglers, picnickers, campers, and boat lovers alike.

Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area is located on public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Santa Cruz Irrigation District regulates water releases for agricultural use in the Santa Cruz Valley. The lake normally contains water year round and may vary in depth as much as 30 feet.  After the agricultural release, the lake may not be boatable primarily to the main ramp and dock being out of the water.

The local terrain is comprised of rugged, rolling foothills, with wide open mesas and chiseled steep canyons. The elevation at the lake is 6,285 feet and rises to 6,600 feet at the Overlook Campground. The eastern shoreline is fringed with juniper and pinon pine, cottonwood, and a filigree of mountain mahogany. The west side is dominated by a large buttress of granite.

The climate at Santa Cruz Lake is semi-arid. Rainfall generally occurs from May through October with the bulk in July and August. Wind is primarily from the northeast during the winter, and southwest during the spring, summer, and fall. Summer temperatures range from 54-92 degrees and in the winter from 5-45 degrees.


The lake can be accessed from NM 503 through scenic Cundiyo from the south or from the road to Truchas cutoff on the north (a steep climb paved road). The Road into Northlake Campground and the Boat Ramp from off NM 503 is paved but steep and winds down to the lake.  Exercise care on this road.

Maps:   Downloadable Map      Aerial Photo              Topographic Map

Water Activities: Generally limited to paddlecraft and fishing at trolling speeds. Shoreline areas have had fishing activity and are generally unsuitable for swimming due to debris in the water including fish hooks.

Special Considerations: New Mexico State Parks Regulations 16.7 Santa Cruz: Motorized boating activity is limited to no-wake operation only. Simply put, all boats are restricted to Trolling Speed throughout the lake. A No Wake no whitewater off the bow or sides of the vessel, restriction is in place for all boats using the lake.

See the Boating Main Page for BLM contact number for checking on lake elevations

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