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Stretching 7 miles long on the Rio Grande River, Cochiti Lake is located in Sandoval County, New Mexico, about 20 miles west of Santa Fe and 60 miles northeast of Albuquerque. The entire lake lies within the boundaries of the Pueblo de Cochiti Nation. Beautifully situated among tall rocky bluffs and steep cliffs, Cochiti Lake has become a recreational delight. Recreational activities include sailing, fishing, windsurfing, and swimming.
Cochiti Dam is one of the ten largest earth fill dams in the United States. The construction of the Cochiti Dam began in 1965 after being approved by the Flood Control Act of 1960. Cochiti Lake was created after Congress modified its authorization for Cochiti Dam. Instead of flood and sediment control only, state officials decided that a permanent pool for fish and wildlife as well as recreational purposes would be beneficial. To create Cochiti Lake, water had to be imported from the Colorado River Basin. Cochiti Dam stands 251 feet above the Rio Grande streambed and stretches over five miles. The Rio Grande and the Santa Fe Rivers are impounded by the large dam.
On the west side of Cochiti Lake, visitors will find the Cochiti Recreation Area which consists of three camping areas with or without electric hook-ups, a boat ramp, two day use areas, an overlook and visitors center. On the east side of Cochiti Lake is the Tetilla Peak Recreation Area. It features two camping areas, a boat ramp, one day use area and an overlook. All other land outside of the two recreation areas are owned by the Cochiti Pueblo and are not open to the public.
Day sailing and windsurfing are two popular activities on Cochiti Lake, due to the fact that it is a no-wake lake. All motorboats must run at idle speed operation only. Calm, still waters are to be expected while on Cochiti Lake. Windsurfers can access the lake from the Tetilla Peak Recreation Area near the boat ramp.
Fishing is also a favorite on Cochiti Lake. Cochiti is known for its large northern pikes and walleyes. Some northern pikes have measured over 40 inches, while some walleye have measured close to 30 inches in length. Besides northern pike and walleye, other fish of interest are bass, catfish, perch, carp, crappie and rainbow trout. Cochiti Lake is stocked with rainbow trout in cool months.
North of Cochiti Lake is the Bandelier National Monument. A beautiful Ancestral Pueblo site called the Alcove House can be seen from one of the trails at the Bandelier National Monument. The Alcove House is 140 feet above the floor of the Frijoles Canyon. It was home to about 25 Pueblo people. When weather is permitting, visitors can climb four wooden ladders and a number of stone stairs to see inside the Alcove Home. Bandelier National Monument also offers a road into the Frijoles Canyon, a visitor center, a lodge, and miles of trails.
Whether visiting local attractions or relaxing in the calm waters of Cochiti Lake, visitors will no doubt enjoy their time. Escape for a while from the business of the city life and have some fun at Cochiti Lake.
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