Standup paddleboarding is as close as you can get to walking on water. Illustration by Michael Byers.
Rent a pontoon boat at Elephant Butte
Marina del Sur has whatever floats your boat for a summer day on Elephant Butte Reservoir. Located near Lions Beach Campground in New Mexico’s largest state park, the full-service marina rents 12-person pontoon boats ($75 per hour), ski pontoons ($115 per hour), and slide boats ($125 per hour), which have a water-fed slide off the top deck. “There are a lot of migratory and aquatic birds to see,” says Neil Brown, president of Lago Rico Inc., which operates the marina. “Hearing the sounds and being on the water is very therapeutic.” 101 S. NM 195, Elephant Butte; 575-744-5567
Take a stand with New Mexico River Adventures
Standup paddleboarding is as close as you can get to walking on water. “There is just a six-inch board between you and the surface,” says Matt Gontram, owner and operator of New Mexico River Adventures, which offers a half-day ($90) at the Río Grande Gorge, as well as a three-day trip ($495) on the Río Chama. The proximity creates an intimate experience with the water and your surroundings. “You are changing balance in tune with the changing currents. There’s a much closer connection to the river than, say, floating in a raft.” 2217 NM 68, Embudo; 800-983-7756
Kayak the Pecos River
Float the Pecos as it runs through the heart of Carlsbad in a kayak or pedal boat ($10 for 30 minutes) or on a water cycle ($15 for 30 minutes), all of which you can rent from Beach Side Snacks & Rentals at the Lake Carlsbad Recreation Area. Hop into your watercraft and explore the river park, which stretches through the southern New Mexico town known as the “Pearl of the Pecos.” The area also boasts picnic spots, a five-mile walking trail, water park, playgrounds, and grills. 814 E. Riverside Dr., Carlsbad; 575-887-0357