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“Needs more visitors and rangers need to chill a little...”

Heron Lake State Park
Ranked #1 of 1 things to do in Alcalde
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Attraction details
Owner description: Known for excellent sailing, fishing, hiking and cross-country skiing, this scenic park offers a 6,000-acre lake where boats can only operate at no-wake speeds.
Reviewed 19 July 2017

A nice park with wide and well marked trails to hike. For the most part, the main trails are nearly as wide a small car. Motorized vehicles are not allowed obviously, so somehow the trails are maintained with some type equipment to keep them that wide.

When I arrived a little after lunch, the visitor center was closed. My first time at this particular state park. The park lot was empty except for one car at the far end. I didn’t see any other soul, so I parked [not in the first empty spot, I never do that], got my backpack, and began my hike. The trailhead is at the visitor center. I hiked just about to the dam, and then turned around, return path the exact same way I’d walked earlier. The path takes you through several campsites, and they all looked mostly full. Camp/RV facilities looked good and modern. Walked past groups who said Hi at these sites, and also a park volunteer who was in the midst to clean up a particular area. Friendly chap, he explained that the visitor center is staffed pretty much with volunteers, and could be closed when they’re all out on the field.

I finished my hike at the visitor center and noticed a New Mexico park ranger pickup truck parked right next to my rental. It did strike me as odd, as in why park right next to me? My rental was a luxury foreign SUV, clean, new. The park ranger pickup truck also looked new. In fact, it was darn impressive. Where I’m from, the state park ranger vehicles are usually the cheapest / smallest domestic pickup trucks available, and invariably rusty and ready to be removed from service. Not this New Mexico park ranger truck: big, fancy, clean, shiny, looked new. While I fiddled for the car keys in my backpack, I admit to continually look at this fancy truck. New Mexico buys pickup trucks like this for their rangers? These guys/gals are fortunate!

At that point, an armed park ranger emerged from the visitor center, which I had thought was closed. The park ranger straightaway demanded why was I looking at his truck. Huh? I pointed to my rental and replied that this was my car. He again said why was I looking at his truck. I again responded that the car next to his was mine.

I realized at that point that this park ranger was really spooked, and borderline angry. Yikes. I have worked with many law enforcement personnel; my day job has had me work with NYS investigators, troopers, and ENCON rangers. Even the times where I’ve interacted with law enforcement due to an incident such as a traffic stop, I have never seen anyone this spooked. I then said that I used to work at ENCON, which is the NYS Environmental Conservation agency, and they don’t have trucks as nice like this one. That seemed to put him slightly at ease, albeit not much. I knew better than to make any sudden moves. He then asked if I was ‘all set’, and I replied, yes Sir, Thank You. He walked back into the visitor center, although he seemed to keep his gaze on me the entire time, and most likely once in the visitor center, he’d have kept an eye out through a window.

I moved deliberately, slowly. I found my keys, unlocked my vehicle, had some water, and drove away. Yowza…I hope to never hike in New Mexico again. I realize New Mexico is next to the border, and perhaps these rangers have had to be on guard all the time. And, I admit that I really did stare at the pickup truck, as was surprised to find this State’s rangers have such impressive vehicles. But that cannot be considered a crime and this incident was way too strange for me. As you can perhaps tell, I am Hispanic; my mother’s lineage is Spain. And, that simply was a liability in this situation. I consider the incident as cautionary, and will stick to the North East or other states like Utah for hikes. I’d done some big hikes earlier in the year in Utah and found everyone in the parks, both tourists and local law enforcement, were really pleasant.

2  Thank IT-Expert
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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"visitor center was closed"
in 2 reviews
"picnic lunch"
in 2 reviews
"willow creek"
in 5 reviews
"new mexico"
in 4 reviews
"no wake"
in 3 reviews
"dam"
in 4 reviews
"blanco"
in 5 reviews
"herons"
in 5 reviews
"campground"
in 8 reviews
"fishing"
in 7 reviews
"sites"
in 10 reviews
"trees"
in 6 reviews
"chama"
in 5 reviews
"hike"
in 4 reviews
"trailhead"
in 2 reviews
"path"
in 2 reviews
"cliffs"
in 2 reviews
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6 - 10 of 32 reviews

Reviewed 1 June 2017 via mobile

We have a very good time there very nice park and fish is good we are heading up there again in one more day

2  Thank Edward P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 28 April 2017

Forget camping on the lake shore! East side (main camp by pavilion) was over 75' above and 1/2 mi. (est.) down to the waters edge. South camp ground was so far away from the lake, that you could not tell there was a lake.

Water level was over 50' to 60' low. Nobody was fishing, except one man. We talked a bit, he was from the "middle east". He had spent the whole day (we met at 4pm-ish) with his father (age 75+) down at the water's edge, on the south shore. He had two carp (12" and 14") for his 8+ hour efforts.

I did not stay overnight! Would not recommend going there to camp or fish. Maybe if you have a RV and want to drink and party. do not think about boating, there really is no access to speak of as waters edge is 100 yards away from the one pier they have on the East side 1/4 mi. away from the pavilion.

Will say the camp host/office volunteer employee was very informative and a nice guy.

Just totally disappointed in what I saw, around the tent sites, there was broken empty bottles and empty cans of discarded strewn all about. Forget shade trees, not there. Fire rings were loaded with debris and not usable, unless you were to dig them out.

Also, NM Game and Fish lie in their brochure of fishing activity. They do not disclose the severe draught condition at the lake or other lakes as a matter of fact, so do not believe in their brochures at all.

3  Thank MN L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 9 October 2016

Stopped here the second week of October and had the whole place to ourselves. We were the only ones in the Ponderosa Campground. All of the sites had a nice view of the lake and mountains. These were what they called developed sites with no electricity or water. There were picnic tables and vault toilets.
The campground with electrical hookups does not have a view of the lake.

1  Thank 5280Beach
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 5 October 2016

Heron Lake State Park consists of many camping loops. We RV camped at Heron Lake State Park and we stayed in the Willow Creek Campground one of the only campgrounds with RV hookups. Full hookups including sewer are $18 a night. We had to also pay for an extra vehicle for $10 a night. Tent sites $10 to $12 a night and Full RV hookup sites for $14. The Willow Creek campground had clean bathrooms, the Blanco campground had a shower house. Both campsites are within a short distance to the dump station. These loops had gravel road access, gravel pads, and little shade- no tall trees around the camp sites. We stayed in camping site 3 on this trip and my dad stayed in camping site 4 both positioned the camping side to the east which gave us much needed shade in the afternoon/evenings and the picnic table in site 3 was covered . We did not have any issues receiving calls, making calls or sending text messages on Verizon Wireless's extended network at these sites or at the Dam while fishing. We found a Subway in chama valley 25 minutes from Heron Lake State Park that was a wifi hot spot if you had to work while on vacation. We shopped at Lowes Grocery Store also in Chama Valley while on vacation and it was a one stop shop that had groceries, clothing, appliances, fishing supplies, hunting supplies, camping supplies, RV supplies and hardware . Don't forget Cumbres and Toltec Railroad is also located in Chama Valley and 25 minutes from Heron Lake State Park. Fishing on this trip was uneventful at the Heron Lake Dam.

1  Thank Stephanie W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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