TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. (KRQE) – For many, the Memorial Day weekend is the kick-off to summer visits to Elephant Butte. With the forests and so many other places off-limits, you might assume it would be packed this year. However, park officials say that’s not quite the case.
Campers and RVs are rolling in and out of Elephant Butte Lake State Park this Memorial Day. “It’s not too bad, not like I thought it was gonna be. We found a good spot quick,” says Michelle Yates, who visited the park Monday.
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Others are opting to camp out for the whole weekend by the lakeshore. “I’ve been fishing, and swimming, and spending time with my family really,” says Jeorje Valenzuela, who stayed at the park through the weekend with her family.
The adventures on the water were a draw for tens of thousands of people throughout the week leading up to Memorial Day: “63,178 is what we came up with on our count,” says Saul Baquera, park superintendent of Elephant Butte Lake State Park.
However, Baquera says they are seeing fewer people than they have in years past. “I think a lot of it might be the smoke; we had a lot of folks calling and asking about the smoke, stuff from the fires and so that may have deterred some people.”
People along the shoreline say while the wildfires were a bit of a concern when they were planning their trips, they didn’t stop them from coming to the lakefront to observe Memorial Day weekend. “A couple of mornings we did see it to where it was kind of hazy out here but it wasn’t too bad. In the afternoons you could see, when the sun was down in the west, you could see the smoke pretty bad,” says Matthew Valenzuela, who stayed at the park through the weekend with his family.
On top of the haze, the stringent fire restrictions—like no campfires in the park right now—led visitors like Yates and her family to opt-out of overnight camping. “When we came in it said we can’t light any fires tonight so a lot of people can’t do campfires,” Yates says.
Visitors also had to contend with the wind, but those here still found a way to enjoy themselves. “We did some fishing, got in the water, did some boating just tried to beat the wind,” Valenzuela says, “Even with the wind coming in howling it was was still pretty fun.”
The superintendent says the water level at the lake is at 13 percent capacity. However, he says this is actually four or five feet higher than last year. While visitation is a little lower this year, the park is heading into its busy season now.