Clayton Lake State Park, NM, US, (elevation 5,186 ft) located at 139 Clayton Lake Rd. Clayton, NM 88415, is a 170-acre recreational reservoir; 15 miles north of Clayton, close to New Mexico’s border with Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas. The landscape of rolling grasslands, volcanic rock, and sandstone bluffs, is set in the western edge of the Great Plains.
The park offers many activities and amenities.
Along with a group shelter, picnicking, camping, hiking, and fishing at the lake, you can also experience one of the most extensive dinosaur trackways in North America.
An earth dam was constructed in the 1970s across Seneca Creek that resulted in the formation of Clayton Lake. The excavation of the spillway, and a flood in 1982 that swept away a layer of silt from the spillway, uncovered an unexpected bonanza of dinosaur tracks, preserved in the Early Cretaceous sandstones of the upper Dakota Group, dated at about 100 million years old.
Today, the tracksite, with over five hundred dinosaur footprints preserved, is one of the main attractions at Clayton Lake State Park — and one of the best-preserved and most extensive dinosaur tracksites in the United States. (1)
The dinosaur tracks are embedded in rock near the lake. They can be observed on the dam spillway at the end of a gentle 0.25-mile (0.40 km) trail. The best times to view the tracks are in the morning and the late afternoon.
As a mother of a future paleontologist, this is where you go to watch your pre-teen’s eyes light up! Walking around the boardwalk, there are many footprints along with signs to educate.
My youngest daughter, having autism, we always take that into consideration whenever/wherever we visit. The path to the footprints is easy and fairly flat, the stairs down to the boardwalk area are not steep and spaced nicely. There is also a restroom at the beginning of the trail, which is always a plus before any walk (or activity with children). The only negative, which can be resolved with close watch, is the rocky, steep lakeside.
Overall, we love this park and plan to go back in the spring to camp, fish, and hike.
If you are lucky, you get to see these beauties on your way out – – –