The Rio Chama Overlook is at the east end of Heron Lake Dam. It has a spectacular view of the Rio Chama Gorge below the dam. Actually it is Willow Creek that joins the Rio Chama after being impounded as Heron Lake by Heron Dam. Willow Creek flows for only ~1000 feet from the dam before reaching the Rio Chama. A couple miles below that, the Rio Chama flows into El Vado Lake. Water hydrants and restrooms are available at the Overlook.
The Rio Chama Trail is a 5.5-mile hiking trail from Heron Lake to El Vado Lake State Park. At the Lake Heron end, it descends from the caprock via a dramatically steep set of wooden stairs and then crosses the river on a suspension bridge. Both were built by the Youth Conservation Corp in the early 1980's. The trail then runs southwest through wooded terrain to the grounds of El Vado Lake State Park. There is a trail from the Overlook along the caprock rim to the Rio Chama Trail; however, in October 2011 the rim area was closed to the public.
To get to some good trout fishing on the Rio Brazos from the Stone House Lodge, you must go back to US-84 on NM-95 (14 miles), then north on US-84 for ~2 miles, and finally east on NM-512 for ~7 miles. It is a beautiful setting on the Rio Brazos and the fishing can be quite good, especially after NM Game and Fish stocks the river with rainbow trout. Our group did not do badly using worms and salmon eggs (several small trout and three good sized ones).
El Vado Lake is designated as a coldwater fishery. There are largemouth bass, bluegill, rainbow trout, brown trout, lake trout and kokanee salmon. Salmon snagging is allowed in the fall from 1 October - 31 December. Note that salmon snagging is closed at Heron Lake and Willow Creek from 1 October - 10 November to allow salmon egg and milt collecting. The day we went fishing on El Vado Lake (1 Oct 2011), the water was very low but the fish were active and jumping. We got a few bites on worms but no fish. We probably should have tried some spinners or spoons.
I had brought food with me on my road trip and the cabin had a fully equipped kitchen, but the food in the Stone House Lodge Cafe was so good and reasonably priced, that I ended up mostly eating there. The selection was not as big as their online menu, but there was always a delicious New Mexican selection. The portions were quite large too.
Favorite Dish: Don't miss the homemade cinnamon rolls! I had them with butter and heated up. They may even be better than the famous cinnamon rolls at the Frontier Cafe in Albuquerque.
Don't worry about driving all the way back into town for provisions when you are at Heron or El Vado Lakes. The Stone House Lodge General Store stocks groceries, ice, fishing tackle, gasoline and most other items you might need during your stay. They can even fill your propane tank, rent you a boat and fishing pole, or listen to your fish story. If your fish story is good enough, you may use the VIP parking!
In 2013, due to the serious drought in New Mexico the water levels are very low. Some pictures of the campsite showed the water very close to the campground. This was probably several years ago...it is quite a walk to the water now
Favorite thing: The Heron Lake State Park Visitors' Center is on NM-95 about 6 miles west of US-84. It is a small visitors' center but has park information and rangers on duty. There are also clean, indoor restrooms. The trailhead for the Salmon Run Trail and the East Meadow Trail is next to the parking lot. The Salmon Run Trail runs from the Visitors' Center down the whole east side of the lake to the dam.