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Lake Pueblo State Park, Colorado

Lake Pueblo

Pueblo forecast

  • location: west of Pueblo, CO
  • size: 5000 acres
  • elevation: 4880 feet
  • maximum depth: 135 feet
  • controling agency: Colorado Division of Parks
  • entrance fee: daily or annual pass
  • directions:
    Take the I-25 exit for US50 west/Canon City. Drive about 3 miles, then turn left onto Pueblo Blvd. (traffic light). Drive 5 more miles, then turn right onto Thatcher/Rte. 96. Drive 3 more miles and turn right at either of two places. The first one has a sign for U.S. Bureau of Reclamation/Colorado Division of Wildlife. The second one has a sign for Colorado State Parks. Either way will go to the lake, but the second one goes directly to the visitor center and South Marina.

    There is a sailboard launching area in addition to two marinas and several fishing areas, all of which you can launch a kayak from. Cyclists can pedal on an asphalt path that looks like it winds all around the reservoir, and mountain bikers and hikers can tread on two short singletracks that start at the visitor center (south shore).

  • links: water level | Lake Pueblo State Park | Pueblo - City Guide

February 12, 2003.

The main goal of this day trip was to test my new boat: Surfrigger -
a solo outrigger canoe. It was my first visit to Lake Pueblo.

The reservoir was filled up to 39% of its capacity and rising (water level down 42 ft). Water temperature was approximately 38F. Bays and the upper lake were covered with thin ice. The weather was sunny but pretty cold (25-50F) with a glass calm water in the morning and some light wind in the afternoon.

The lake didn't really look very low since most of the shores were high cliffs. Just a high concrete dam was a reminder of drought conditions. I saw only two fishing boats, otherwise the lake was empty.

Lake Pueblo

I started from a boat ramp near south shore marina and paddled clockwise around the lake staying very close to the shore and exploring all bays. I paddled as far west as was allowed by ice. I finished the 10.5 miles circle at the boat ramp.

In the afternoon I was going to repeat the same circle around the lake but it appeared that the thin ice in the upper part of the lake was eroded by waves and wind. I could paddle at least two miles further before I got stopped by the ice again. The lake was narrower with many dead trees in the water indicating the former channel of the Arkansas River. I returned back along the same shore making about 12 miles in the afternoon paddling.

It was fun to watch bald eagles. Probably, there was just a couple but I could see them almost all time when paddling along the south shore: flying, sitting on the cliff or dead trees in water, flying with a fish in talons. There were also many geese, ducks, sea guls and one hawk.

Trip odometer: 22.5 miles, moving time: 5:46 h, moving average speed: 3.9 mph, maximum speed: 6.2 mph.

Lake Pueblo

December 28-29, 2002: paddling report by Patricia Lee.

I made a weekend out of it, figuring I'd get two days of paddling for the drive out there. Very nice! The only ice (as the park attendant said) was at the west end. The rest of the reservoir was totally open.

The motorhead summer boating crowds were gone -- no competition for either camp sites or water space. Sites at two of the several campgrounds remain open ALL YEAR! The one I stayed at, Arkansas Point on the south shore, even had heated bathrooms with flush toilets ($14 per night). You can also camp at Juniper Breaks on the north shore (vault toilets, may cost less per night). I don't know if kayak-camping away from the developed areas is allowed.

Both shores have marinas with stores (even those were open, much to my surprise) and pay showers, plus there are many other places you could easily launch a kayak from. Pretty cushy...finish paddling and buy a microwave burrito on the dock.

Although the water level is down 50 feet from normal, it's still pretty deep, which is partly why it doesn't freeze in winter. You heard that right -- the guy at the marina store said he heard that it froze over exactly once, and even then the ice was not thick enough to walk on. According to him, this is the best time of year for sailboaters, because the wind blows gently all day, not too strong. Which is another reason why it doesn't freeze over; the water is kept moving.

I was curious how many miles around it was. The marina guy nodded in agreement with my estimate of 9 to 10 miles around (whatever it was, it took me 2 hours to make the circuit). He said that the distance from the south marina to the river (west end) is normally 7 miles and now it is half that. The side arms were pretty much shriveled up but I bet they're nice under non-drought conditions.

From November through March, the reservoir saves up all its water. After March, the powers that be are required to release all water above whatever level it hits at the end of that period.

Wind was light to moderate both days, no whitecaps. When I woke up hearing the chinooks I thought, "Well, no paddling today," but the water didn't look rough. I think its being down 50 feet meant it was somewhat sheltered from the wind, because the bluffs rose higher above the water surface.

A bald eagle flew right in front of me while I was paddling. I also saw grebes, coots, mallards, and seagulls. Probably a good place to watch birds in spring.

I'm thrilled to know there is SOMEPLACE to paddle mid-winter, and I don't mean Lake Powell, which is beautiful but at least a 7-hour drive from here. Check it out sometime!

Pueblo Lake

The aerial photo from September 1999 (courtesy of MSN TerraServer and USGS) covers the 8x6 miles (12.8x9.6km) area.

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