Maxwell NWR--North Lake 14 Viewing Area

Maxwell NWR--North Lake 14 Viewing Area

Maxwell, New Mexico 87728

Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge Official Website
Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge map

Tips for Birding

A somewhat overgrown, crushed-shale surfaced path meanders through Blue grama, Black grama, and Bush muhly southwest for a quarter mile from the parking area off County Road A-4 (also known as Highline Road) to a bench and interpretive sign north of the lake. Even when the lake is full, you will likely want a spotting scope for viewing from this distance. On a cool, calm summer morning, it can be quite pleasant to sit on the bench, situated at an elevation slightly above the lake, listening to calls of Long-billed Curlew and Sora, provided you’ve applied sunscreen and insect repellent before beginning your hike. There is no signage indicating you can’t hike closer to the lake, but it will be muddier the closer you get. As with that around Lake 13, this is mud that will suck the shoes right off your feet.

Please do not create lists for this hotspot containing observations not at Lake 14;  there is a general hotspot for observations made as you travel between the location-specific hotspots on the Refuge.  

About this Location

Lake Number 14 is one of the smaller playa lakes located within Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge where water is stored for wildlife habitat and irrigation. Water managed by the Vermejo Conservancy District is diverted from the Vermejo River and Chico Rico Creek, traveling via a series of canals to the lakes. For this hotspot, the Number 14 Inflow Canal is west of the viewing area; the trail from the parking area is immediately south of the Number 14 Lateral. Canals may be dry, or at least have no visible water when the lake has water. Because the average evaporation rate of the lakes is more than twice that of precipitation, they are typically dry in years where irrigation water is not released to the Refuge by the District. In a wet year, Lake 14 will cover about 120 acres, with an average depth of maybe 5 feet. 

About Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge

See all hotspots at Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge

The Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge presents visitors with a unique wildlife viewing experience. Visitors are treated to year-round views of hawks, owls, eagles, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, mule deer, and black-tailed prairie dogs.

Located in northeastern New Mexico at an elevation of 6050 feet, Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 3,699 acres of short-grass prairie, playa lakes, woodlots, wetlands, and crop fields. The refuge sits in an open basin surrounded by high mesas to the northeast and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the west. Since 1965 this landscape has been managed for the benefit of wildlife and has provided a feeding and resting habitat for migratory birds.

Birders and wildlife watchers can challenge themselves by attempting to check off all 289 species of birds found on the refuge. American kestrels, wild turkeys, and Wilson’s phalaropes are a few of the common species you will enjoy seeing at Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge.

Mid-October on the refuge is generally the peak fall migration of sandhill cranes, geese, and ducks. However, any time of year you are likely to see a diversity of wildlife. Wildlife watching is generally best during the morning and at dusk when wildlife is most active.

Rangeland on the refuge is rolling prairie and reclaimed farmland containing a variety of grasses including blue grama, galleta, sand dropseed, threeawn, and buffalo grass, as well as fourwing saltbush and cactus. Lakes on the refuge provide 700 acres of waterfowl roosting and feeding habitat. Wet years bring dense shoreline vegetation, while the lakes may disappear in dry years.

The refuge lakes and associated Stubblefield Lake are primarily for water storage for irrigation purposes for surrounding ranches and are managed by the local water manager. The refuge owns the surrounding grassland but not the water making water management impossible. Stubblefield Lake is privately owned. Fishing is allowed in some areas of the refuge.

From Raton, take I-25 south to Maxwell, go north on NM-445  for 0.8 miles, and west on NM-505 for approximately 2.5 miles. Turn north at the entrance sign (1.5 miles to headquarters).

The vault toilets by the parking area for Lake 13 are seasonally open and maintained. There are flush toilets in the Visitor Center (headquarters building), but that building is open on an extremely limited basis.


  • Restrooms on site

  • Wheelchair accessible trail

  • Entrance fee

  • Roadside viewing

Content from Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge Official Website and John Montgomery

Last updated July 30, 2023