I've visited Elephant Butte aproximately 8 times in the past ten years for vacation and visit family and found this to be a small and quaint small town on a big beautiful lake. The people are friendly, the food is great, and if you want to fish, ski and enjoy a small town feel this is the place. The lake has big sandy beaches, that many folks pull their RV's right down to the lake and camp. It is beautiful, but be sure you check the pack of the sand and can pull it out.
The lake is famous for Bass fishing and has alot of BASS. Easy to catch there are so many. We also caught catfish, carp and other fish there. The kids caught them from the marinas, and from the boat. Many good fishing guides willing to take you out on their boat for good prices too, if you want a guide.
In 1998 the Lake was at peak capacity and provided 3 marinas with rentals of boats, jet skis and other water craft. Since 1998 the state has seen a drought and the water levels were at an all time low in 2004, but up again now in 2005. This caused a good deal of hardship on the town and businesses that depeneded on tourism. So alot of the town in in sort of recovery mode. This makes 2005 a good year for bargains, but also some of the normal businesses are still getting back on their feet again.
The marina at the "dam site" provided a lively restaurant and bar with live music and dancing on the patio overlooking the lake in a very casual atmosphere. Loads of fun, and great margaritas. Families, Couples, Teens, Seniors, all dancing together having a great time. This marina is not good to launch your boats, only to tie up and visit the site and get gas, supplies and food, etc.
The cabins at this site are beyond rustic and camping and are only for the very hardiest of folks. The management is opening a new bed and breakfast but have not stayed there yet.
The main marina has more facilites and a very large ramp with ample parking. At low lake levels this marina's ramp is very low but we had no trouble launching our 24 ft deck boat.
The Rock Canyon marina, has again facilities but we would not launch there either due to ramp conditions. Keep in mind we are pretty picky launchers and want a good concrete ramp!
Basically the only hotels are the new one at the "dam site" and the Elephant Butte Inn. The other hotels and motels are in the city of truth or consequences about 10 minutes away.
The Elephant Butte Inn has standard rooms that are clean and nicely kept. A small pool. They have nice grassy lawn for the kids to play on, tennis courts (not sure I ever saw anyone use them) and a free continental breakfast. The hotel also has a restaurant and bar that have some limited hours during the week but better on the weekend.
Comfort Inn - Clean and comfortable, indoor pool. Avoid the cafe next door...too slow and bad food, used to be a denny's.
marina suites motel, looks very bleak, never stayed there, but if you don't like just a row of motel rooms that look very old, avoid it.
There are alot of great mexican food restaurants in this area. Again, being small town, always check things are still open and their hours...can vary depending on the owners needs.
Near the lake we like these small casual places:
CASA TACO (Monday's $1.00 tacos!!!) great, cleanest small taco stand I've ever seen. 401 Highway I95.
Big Food Express - This guy is crazy he has the most extensive menu and everything was great. He just moved into a permanent building and had previously been running out of stand. 212 Warm Springs
La Concina Restuarant - Good Mexican Food.
pizza hut - sausage, pepperoni and green chili, very good.
The rest of the restaurants I've eaten at, have changed names and owners over the past 8 years, so I'd suggest asking the locals at the gas stations (Pat's) or other places and they'll give you the straight scoop. The people are really nice and friendly there. Very laid back.
Have a good time.