Day Trip: Sumner Lake

Families looking to cool off in the water or just relax and have fun can find the opportunity by visiting Sumner Lake State Park for a day or to camp overnight.
With a lake that spans 4,500 acres, the 6,700-acre state park just west of Fort Sumner offers activities to enjoy on the water, while there are out-of-water attractions nearby as well.

Lake history
The lake is at the junction of the Pecos River and Alamogordo Creek, according to the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources Web site. Established in 1960 as the Alamogordo Reservoir, the name was changed in 1974 to avoid confusion with the growing town of Alamogordo.
The lake was then named after Fort Sumner, which honors Col. Edmund Vose Sumner, who commanded the 9th Military District and built several forts during the 19th century.
The nearby Alamogordo Dam was built in 1936-37 by the Bureau of Reclamation to impound water from the Pecos River for the Carlsbad Irrigation District.

Activities and attractions
Park visitors can take advantage of camping, picnicking, fishing, boating, wildlife viewing, water skiing, hiking and mountain biking. The facilities at the park include a visitor center, group shelter, 50 developed camping sites, 18 electric sites, an RV dump station, restrooms and showers, a playground, a discovery trail and a mountain bike trail.
Nearby are many attractions including two museums, the Bosque Redondo Memorial and Fort Sumner State Monument, which is a Civil War-era outpost, and the gravesite of the notorious outlaw, Billy the Kid.

Flora and fauna
Piñon, juniper, mesquite, grasses and yucca cover hillslopes and mesas around the lake, according to the NMBGMR Web site. Various wild flowers and cacti are common.
Falcons, mountain bluebirds, ducks, geese and a few bald eagles inhabit the area near the lake. Antelope and deer also roam the surrounding environment.
Because the lake is along the “Pecos River Flyway,” it is a great area for bird-watching. Winter migratory birds appreciate the lake while summer breeding birds are attracted to the canyon below the dam, according to the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department’s Web site.
Anglers can appreciate the lake because it is the home for many warm-water fish. The NMBGMR Web site said the state’s Game and Fish Department stocks the lake with walleye, northern pike, large-mouth bass, catfish, crappie, green sunfish and bluegills. Trout are also found in the river below the dam.

How to get there
To get to Sumner Lake from Portales take N.M. 267 west to Melrose. Turn left onto U.S. 60 to Fort Sumner. Take U.S. 84 northwest out of Fort Sumner, and then go west on N.M. 203. The drive is about 85 miles long.

— Compiled by Bryant Million, Freedom Newspapers