Best Places To Kayak In New Mexico

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Kayaking is a very rapidly growing sport and recreation activity. Professionals and amateur kayakers alike are always seeking the best possible locations to get into the water with their boats and explore new areas and waterborne challenges. Many paddlers find themselves looking at New Mexico for possible locations for their next kayaking adventure.

Kayaking in New Mexico can be intense, and it can be tranquil. The rivers and lakes in this state provide a wide variety of kayaking locations for all skill levels. The ideal time of year for kayaking in NM is Spring, but beware of the regulations. There is something for every paddler in New Mexico.

New Mexico is home to a wide variety of kayaking locations that are suitable for paddlers of all skill levels. Tranquil lakes and intense rivers are both found in this state, but let’s take a deeper dive into what kayaking in New Mexico is like and where the best kayaking locations are.

Kayaking In New Mexico

New Mexico is a favorite kayaking location for many paddlers. This state is full of waterways, lakes, and rivers that span many miles into spectacular scenery and terrain.

There is something for every paddler in this state, including tranquil, long rivers that are ideal for beginner and intermediate paddlers. These rivers are dotted with convenient access points and bridges, as well as rest areas and picnic spots. 

This is ideal for beginner and intermediate kayakers who are practicing their skills or for weekend warriors who are looking for a fun day out with family and friends.

There are several challenging water trails in New Mexico to use the skill limits of even the most experienced kayakers. Raging rapids, fast-flowing water, large rivers, and complicated waterways strewed with boulders await those who are seeking a kayaking adventure.

New Mexico is an ideal location for kayaking. The rivers and lakes offer the perfect waters, but the scenery and wildlife along the way are well worth the trip.

Spectacular canyons, caves, expansive desert landscapes, intense sunsets, and beautiful mountain ranges await those who enter the waters of New Mexico, and the best way to view them is from the seat of a kayak.

Kayakers in New Mexico spend their lifetime exploring the waters of their state and invite paddlers from out of state to explore the land, as there is nothing like the experience of kayaking in this great state.

Where To Go Kayaking In New Mexico

New Mexico is home to a very wide variety of kayaking locations. There are simply too many spectacular locations to list, so let’s rather talk about the two main types of kayaking in NM and mention some of the best places to go for both.

This will provide the best possible information for planning your next New Mexico kayaking adventure.

New Mexico Kayaking Rivers

New Mexico has many rivers that span many hundreds of miles, and all of them are perfect for kayaking. This means that there are many options for river kayaking routes to choose from.

Many of the rivers in NM are ideal for beginner and intermediate kayakers, and many are better suited for experienced and advanced kayakers. 

Rivers such as the Rio Grande River are ideal for beginners and intermediate paddlers. This river is long, wide and is best for kayaking during the spring when the water is deepest. There is plenty of diverse wildlife to be seen along this rive, there are many access points and stopping locations, and this river is safe for all kayakers.

The Lower Rio Chama River is another ideal river for beginners and intermediate paddlers and is even stated to be safe for first-time kayakers, children, and even the elderly. This is an ideal location to take the family for a fun kayaking adventure.

New Mexico also hosts several very advanced rivers that are only suitable for very advanced and very experienced kayakers. While the Lower Rio Chama is safe for everyone, the Upper Rio Chama River is for advanced paddlers only.

The Upper Rio Chama is one of the rivers in New Mexico, along with the Lower Taos Box and the Rio Embudo that are only suitable for experienced kayakers. These rivers are wild, fast-flowing, and strewn with boulders and craggy rocks.

Whitewater rapids are frequent in these rivers, and they can be very dangerous for kayakers. Only attempt these rivers with a local or a guide who has in-depth knowledge and experience in these rivers.

New Mexico Kayaking Lakes

Along with the ideal kayaking rivers, New Mexico features several lakes that make excellent kayaking locations. All of the lakes in New Mexico are ideal for all kayakers, regardless of skill level.

The water of the lakes here is gentle and provides the perfect locations for both learning to kayak and honing advanced kayaking skills.

Lakes such as Elephant Butte Lake, Heron Lake, Fenton Lake, and Navajo Lake are all situated within state parks and are protected areas. This means that they are relatively untouched and make for ideal camping kayaking trips or day trips with the family.

These lakes provide beautiful scenery, dramatic sunset views, and ideal paddling conditions regardless of skill level.

What To Keep In Mind When Kayaking In New Mexico

Kayaking in New Mexico is beautiful, exciting, and unforgettable, but there are a few things to keep in mind when planning a kayaking excursion in this state.

New Mexico state carries some strict kayaking regulations that must be adhered to. New Mexico classifies kayas as boats, and all persons operating a vessel that is born after 1 January 1989 must carry proof of boater education. This means that kayakers born after this date must be licensed. 

All kayaks in New Mexico must carry a light if operated at night; all kayaks must also carry night signaling devices, sounding devices such as whistles, and lifejackets for every person on board. Any kayaker under the age of 13 must only operate the kayak under the direct supervision of an adult.

Another important consideration is the weather. In the summer months, New Mexico temperatures get very high, and the risk of dehydration, sunstroke, severe sunburn, and heatstroke are very real. 

The winter months in New Mexico become incredibly cold, much colder than you may expect. The extreme cold is perilous for kayaking, so it is best to plan according and be well prepared, or only go kayaking in New Mexico in the spring or autumn months to avoid intense weather conditions.


New Mexico is an ideal area for kayaking. There are treasures to be found in all kayaking locations, regardless of skill level.

Thrill-seeking adventure kayakers will find extreme challenges in New Mexico, and peace-seeking weekend warriors will find tranquillity on pristine lakes. This state truly has something for every type of paddler and should be a serious contender for the location of your next kayaking adventure!