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New Mexico

Elephant Butte resort community sees economy crumble under weight of pandemic

ELEPHANT BUTTE, New Mexico - The economy at one of New Mexico's most well-known resort communities is in free fall as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to keep vacationers at home.

One of the biggest issues, according to residents is that their main attraction of Elephant Butte Lake is currently closed down on orders from the governor.

This has had the domino effect of drying up business for dozens of other employers around the tiny but highly popular resort community.

Business owner Garrett Stockton said he usually moves about 20 boats per season, however, so far this year he has moved next to no inventory with that crucial summer season just weeks away. 

"We have basically gone from ramping up for the season to having done nothing," said Stockton, who owns New Mexico Wake. "Our biggest problem is that we cannot make decisions because we do not know if we will be open or not.”

Other business owners have reported a similarly dire situation.

“Our foot traffic is pretty much non-existent," said Bob Owen, co-owner of the Butte General Store and Marine. "Our revenue is a little bit in the 60% to 70% reduction area.”

All of this has been especially frustrating for residents as there is currently only one coronavirus case in all of Sierra County.

The south end of the lake is operated by the Bureau of Reclamation. It owns the lake and lease it out the state parks.

“State parks have chosen to close their parks," said President of Lago Rico Neal Brown. "They have 40,000 acres of real estate where they can let people in but they have chosen to keep it closed.”

The population of Elephant Butte usually stands at around 1,500 people, but residents say that during better spring and summer seasons that number can easily inflate to close to 10,000.

“The state park needs to open up and let them use their boats that they are paying to use," said Brown. "They are people who have purchased seasonal passes and people who expect to be able to come to the lake and they need to let them do that.”

Fortunately, that southern portion of the lake actually is open to the public in some capacity.

“We have had a lot of people down here, but they’re keeping their distance," said Brown. "It gives an opportunity to fish and if you have a small water craft, you can put it in the water.”

That area is also open to camping enthusiasts.

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Michael Gordon

Michael Gordon is an ABC-7 reporter who co-anchors Good Morning El Paso weekends.



  1. There is no reason to shut down a lake. Fishing is one of the great things you can do alone. This governor’s knee-jerk reaction to everything is destroying New Mexico’s already weak economy.

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