Arapaho National Recreation Area

I’m currently planning a canoeing/kayaking trip for late July and early August and Arapaho National Recreation Area (CO) has made my final list. Two things I’m looking for is hopefully great fishing while were there, and good camping spots. The trip will either be 2 nights/3 days or 3 nights/4 days. Does anyone have any good suggestions for this area? The Rec area consists of 5 lakes: Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain Reservoir, Monarch Lake, Willow Creek Reservoir, and Meadow Creek Reservoir. I believe their is a waterway connecting Grand and Shadow.

Or- if anyone has any other suggestions for a similar trip in Colorado I would be open to those also. Anyone here ever paddled/fished Big or Little Lake Molas (sp?) in CO?

Thank you in advance!

Car camping or backcountry camping?
There are several developed car camping campgrounds in Arapaho NRA. Some of them you would probably want to reserve a site in advance, given the time of year you plan to visit. I suggest buying the U.S. Forest Service map for the area, as it lists district ranger offices with contact info. It also shows all designated campgrounds. If it’s backcountry camping you want to do, I know it is permissible in at least some areas of Granby Lake–ask the ranger’s office about that plus applicable laws concerning human waste disposal.

The waterway connecting Grand and Shadow lakes is for paddlecaft only, a nice thing. Don’t be surprised by the number of homes (including boat garages over the water) right on the waterfront of Grand Lake.

The rangers kept gushing over how beautiful Monarch Lake was, and how powerboats are not allowed on it. We looked at it and laughed. Granted, it was a drought year, but that “lake” is extremely small. We didn’t even bother paddling there, it was so tiny. I think some people’s idea of “good place to canoe or kayak” = paddle a few strokes and you’re in the middle of the water. More like “floating on your can” than paddling. Might be good for fishing, though.

You may want to consider Curecanti National Recreation Area for a camping trip. Each of the three main “basins” is large, open, and apparently very popular for fishing. You could easily do a multiday trip there. Not a good place for those averse to the open and windy. LOTS of developed campgrounds, and dispersed camping is also allowed. Just watch out for the mud; it’s really sticky.

The Fish-n-Map Company (in Arvada, CO) puts out some good waterproof maps with scale that is just right for paddlers. They have one for Blue Mesa (part of Curecanti NRA), and no doubt they have one for Granby et al.

new spot
OK- Have decided not to schedule Arapaho Nat. Rec. Area. New location is around Leadville at Turquoise Lake and possibly 1 or 2 more in the area. Has anyone fished or paddled here? Yay/Nay?

We would have paddled around
Monarch if it hadn’t been too windy every day for our whitewater tandem. But then, we were camped down the road near Granby. Granby was very low that year, but Monarch was full to the brim. While there is an excellent trail circling Monarch, views of the surrounding mountains would be better enjoyed by paddling the lake.

Turquoise is a day paddle

– Last Updated: May-15-08 3:39 PM EST –

Lots of developed campsites, pretty water (unless they have just been "playing" with water diversions), good hiking trails there including one around the lake. A nice day paddle plus day hikes, too small for kayak camping.

Ditto for Twin Lakes, another pretty mountain lake in the Leadville area. Beautiful day paddle, too small for kayak camping.

Your best bests for multiday paddling are Blue Mesa Reservoir (Curecanti NRA), Granby Reservoir (Arapaho NRA), and Navajo "Lake" (in two state parks, one in CO and one in NM). Figure on open, windy paddling in large parts of all of these.

You still haven't said whether you will be car camping or backcountry camping. At all the above in summer, you may need advance reservations for camping in developed campgrounds.

Pika- the plan was for backcountry camping. I’m checking in to the reservations asap. Thanks for your help. I hear Leadville is a pretty cool mountain town.

CO options
I like Turquoise for a weekend, but it’s not a backcountry experience. The lake is very pretty, and I have caught fish there every time, but it’s popular and can be crowded - especially the campgrounds. Twin Lakes are at very high altitude and there is little cover around the shore, so it’s pretty exposed to strong winds.

If you are set on CO, then I would probably go down to Blue Mesa or Navajo Res.

Outside of CO, I would go to either: Green River (UT), Upper Missouri (MT) or the BWCA (MN). I just don’t think that there are any great options for “wilderness paddling” in CO. That’s why I still drive all the way up to Quetico every year!

You should catch Ponderosa or
Slickrock on the Dolores this year. Both wilderness.