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Lake Nighthorse now open for nonmotorized fun

Opening season hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday-Sunday
Duncan Williams of Durango fly fishes for trout on a brisk opening day Friday at Lake Nighthorse. Lake Nighthorse is open for nonmotorized recreation from now until May 7. Daily operations will begin May 12 and motorized recreation May 15. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Time to set sail – paddle – cast a fly or slip into a flannel-lined swimsuit and make tracks to Lake Nighthorse recreation area.

The popular Durango-area destination opened Friday for nonmotorized recreation from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through May 7. Daily operations will begin May 12 and motorized recreation begins May 15.

Those eager to play on the inflatable Wibit Aqua Park will need to wait until it opens June 3. And for visitors familiar with the park, prepare for some changes this season.

“Popularity of the Wibit Aqua Park exceeded all expectations,” Amy Schwarzbach, natural resources manager for the Durango Parks and Recreation Department, said in a news release. “We have learned important lessons these past two seasons and received many requests from parents to address safety issues, as well as find a way to provide equitable access so that more kids can enjoy the aqua park.”

Visitors to the Lake Nighthorse Wibit Aqua Park this year should anticipate new rules and fees. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

In order to address those concerns and pay for unforeseen maintenance expenses, the park will offer four daily sessions that last an hour and 45 minutes each. There will be a $5 fee per session with a maximum of 60 people allowed. In-person reservations will open each day at the swim beach building at 9:30 a.m. Participants must wear a city-provided Wibit life jacket and children age 6 and younger must be accompanied by an adult.

The need for a fee and to strictly limit the number of people on the Wibit at a given time was driven by irreparable damage the aqua park sustained during the 2022 season which totaled nearly $10,000, according to the release. In addition, numerous community members expressed frustration the Wibit was occupied for long stretches without turnover of those playing on it, making it difficult for kids who arrived later in the day to enjoy the amenity.

Limiting the number of people will make more room for fun as well as decrease the total weight and thus prevent damage to the park’s inflatables. A new Wibit lifeguard tower will add enhanced safety.

Lake Nighthorse hosted 89,338 visitors last year.

Construction of a new entrance and watercraft inspection/decontamination station will also be happening this season so anticipate possible traffic delays and modified boat inspection hours.

Find full details and purchase season and five-punch passes at DurangoGov.org/LakeNighthorse. Passes may also be purchased in person at the Durango Community Recreation Center.

Seasonal job opportunities will include cashier, boat inspector/lake maintenance and lifeguard positions. Applications began Feb. 15. To apply, visit DurangoGov.org/Jobs. Volunteer opportunities are also available by visiting DurangoGov.org/493/Volunteer-Opportunities. Please refer to the webpage for all 2023 season information or call 375-7321. Lake Nighthorse updates also are posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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