CO Paddling

Hi, what are some great places to paddle in Colorado? I know it’s mostly reservoirs, but looking to expand my locations to more than general Denver area. I’m not into whitewater (at least not yet). Thanks!

The one I remember from 1972 is Eleven Mile Lake somewhere above Colorado Springs. We have someone who lives there and will probably answer.

I lived in Colorado many years ago in the Norwest Denver suburbs. My favorite places to paddle were Blue Mesa resevoir (nice place to camp), the green and colorado rivers (Ruby and Horsethief canyons are good starters). I liked a lot of the small scenic lakes (and usually was fishing with my son. Red Feather lakes, Brainard lake was close to home and we spent a lot of time there. Flamming Gorge in Utah is good and about 30 miles below the dam is very easy whitewater. The Platte is actually a nice place once you get away from Denver, I don’t remember the names of the put ins but you can find local guide books. If you get into whitewater CO has some really fantastic places, some nice play parks in Golden and in Durango for entry level learning. I seem to remember one on clear creek or Cherry creek close to down town Denver. After that amazing rivers through out the western half of the state. When Pikabike sees this she can give you a really good summary. I know a lot the places I used to love have become quite crowded in recent years so she will have up to date info.

If you want to learn about rivers you have the S Platte R right in town.

The problem with CO paddling, either reservoir or river, is the drought conditions that are going strong this year. An increasingly frequent situation.

Another difficulty is how calls for irrigation water can dramatically affect water levels. Almost all reservoirs serve demands for irrigation or municipal water supply. Hot weather evaporative loss is somewhat gradual and predictable, whereas irrigation releases can horrify a paddler in how much they cause the level to drop in only a day or two. Beware.

If you have a specific area of CO in mind, I can better help you. When we lived in metro Denver, my favorite place to paddle was Aurora Reservoir, even though it was 40 miles from our house and the toll fees and entrance cost were not cheap. But the water was clean, they had a beautiful section of sandy beach just for hand-launching boats (have never seen this at ANY other CO reservoir or natural lake), and the rangers did their job well. Mind you, last time I went there was in 2012, so things might be different now!

We also paddled at main Chatfield Reservoir and the gravel pond near it. Rarely went to Gross Reservoir, which was pretty but a PITA for access. I did WW practice at Clear Creek WW park, which is a total zoofest of drunken tubers on weekends and many summer weekdays, too. I think it is closed now due to the masses ignoring pandemic distancing precautions.

Some of my faves a bit farther away were Eleven Mile Reservoir, Twin Lakes, and Turquoise Lake. Many paddlers like Dillon Lake and Granby Reservoir, both a little closer to Denver.

The SW CO reservoirs are particularly subject to drawdown in drought plus a full day’s drive from Denver, so I am not recommending them. The motorized boaters—and general pandemic vacation crowds—from TX, AZ, and some other states seem to be more numerous than usual this year, and there is concern over what that means for COVID-19 spreading, too.

What state are YOU coming from? Do you know about the Aquatic Invasive Species inspection requirements in all western states? The rules vary by venue, so it is not merely a set of statewide regs. You should contact specific venues before going.

Every state in the West is affected by drought, irrigation diversions and the effect of the seasons.
Colorado is no different. There are some easy stretches of the Colorado River over on the western slope. I like the Yampa and White Rivers. We used to run the N Platte pretty often into Wyoming.

There’s been some good suggestions here. I’m over on the western slope and like pikabike, can give some more detailed suggestions if you start looking this way. A popular couple day float is the Gunnison River between Delta and Whitewater, and as SeaDart mentioned Ruby-Horsethief is a good option. I paddle Ridgway Reservoir on a regular basis, but generally go pretty early before the powerboats come out. If you decide to go the whitewater route, we have lots of options over here as well.

Thank you all for the good advice and information. I’m originally from FL and paddling out here is new to me. I’ve been out of it for awhile, but getting back into paddling again. I probably won’t be hitting any rivers to start off with, but eventually. I really appreciate your help!

Hi, I’m from FL and familiar with checking the board, etc. for invasives. I’m just familiar with the specific invasives for Colorado just yet.