Welcome to Sierra County
New Mexico


Yes! Lake Levels Rose in September 2013

A lot of people have asked if lake levels are up after the September rains, and they want to know how much.

The answer is YES! Elephant Butte Lake and Caballo Lake have benefited greatly from the rains. You can tell just by looking.

welcome-to-elephant-butte-lake-levels-are-upOur (greatly-appreciated) volunteer correspondent Matt sent in this beautiful photo of rain falling into Elephant Butte Lake. How could that precipitation not make a difference?

This morning (September 23) we called the Bureau of Reclamation for numbers. Their site is down, and the receptionist was vague, but said since the most recent rains, Caballo Lake level is up about ten feet and Elephant Butte Lake level is up approximately five feet.

(Honestly, seems like more, judging by what we’ve seen and the photos we’ve taken.)

Here are some “real” numbers – BoR seemed to think they wouldn’t have changed much in the past 3-4 days:

On September 18:
“According to the Bureau of Reclamation, every 15 minutes 59 acre feet of water is being added to the Lake. One acre foot is 325851.43 gallons!”
(source: City of Elephant Butte Facebook Page)

On September 20:
4302.98′ and rising
(source: Elephant Butte Chamber of Commerce on Facebook)

On September 21:
Water temperature is currently 77 degrees
(source: our buddy who wouldn’t lie)

On September 22:
“Just got done checking the official website and up 18′ since July 8th. Caballo at its highest level of the year! Still only at 7.2% but climbing.”
(volunteer correspondent Matt!)

We’ve been heading up to the look-out near Elephant Butte Dam on Sundays to document the progress – first trip was on Labor Day weekend (when we wrote the “Winding Roads Park / lake half full” post), next was on September 15, and we went back yesterday too. Amazing what a difference a month makes.

elephant butte lake levels following rains in September 2013

Also amazing is the fact that every time we go to the Dam overlook, there are people there, you’d think to enjoy the view…

…but gosh! As far as we can tell, that view is lost on so many lake half emptians. Yesterday, a fellow was doing his best to convince us that a month ago, the water was much much higher. All those rocks “out there,” he said, were fully submerged. “It’s much lower now.”  What good would it do to argue? We just smiled.

We’ve been holding off on posting photos. Because, you know, the rain didn’t go so well for everyone. Governor Martinez issued a state of emergency, precious lives were lost, people’s homes flooded, evacuations were necessary, roads closed. It felt inappropriate to focus on something like lake levels while people were still recovering, cleaning up.

Our sympathies are with all who suffered.


  1. This is the usace real-time data I’ve been using for years for NM lake levels.


    Not sure if their elevation is the same as the BOR spillway elevation, but it is pretty reliable, consistent and I feel it’s very accurate. September 9-10 (before the large rains) elevation was 4292 and some change. Now we are close to 4305. From the couple of trips on the water I’ve made in the past two weeks, I would say those numbers are pretty close. Glad to see it coming up, hope for snowpack and runoff this winter.

    • Thank you for the link, we’ve bookmarked it! We’re with you, thinking good thoughts for a long snowy winter up north. 🙂

  2. Love the photos and especially love that the rain is filling the lake again but its really not necessary to include a remark that is intended to make someone from [state name removed] look stupid. Please remember many of us here in [the area] love Elephant Butte and many more of us own a home there and pay Sierra taxes. It was an unnecessary paragraph for your story.

    thank you

    • Boy, you’re right! Mentioning license tags and and such was completely unnecessary and not too bright (speaking of looking stupid). Thanks for checking us, and for doing it gently. We removed the reference, and changed your comments so that no states are mentioned at all!

Leave a Reply