Go jump in a lake | VailDaily.com

Go jump in a lake

Ted AlvarezVail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

In Colorado, theres plenty of purple mountain majesty but sometimes it seems like we could use just a little more blue. Large lakes can be hard to come by in the Rocky Mountain state, and many high alpine lakes are accessible only by trail. But a few large lakes stand out as treasures worth visiting for abundant fishing, boating, hiking and sightseeing opportunities, and most are little more than a few hours drive away.Cold weather is closing in, true, but for the next few weeks fall visitors will still encounter recreational opportunities far from the madding crowds that flock to the lakes in summer.

Three dams on the Gunnison River created the three distinct reservoirs that make up the Curecanti National Recreation Area: Blue Mesa, Morrow Point and Crystal reservoirs. The park was established in 1965 and sees over a million visitors a year, but most of them will have already gone this year.At 20 miles long and with 96 miles of shoreline, Blue Mesa Reservoir is Colorados largest single body of water. Its also the largest lake trout and kokanee salmon fishery in the United States. Were approaching the beginning of prime kokanee fishing season, which begins Nov. 1. On the edges of Blue Mesa rise the Dillon Pinnacles, strange, eroded rock formations that resemble cedar knees. Trails lead through sagebrush, cottonwood and pine habitats to reward hikers with expansive views of the reservoir, the surrounding mesas and the San Juans beyond. Morrow Point Reservoir is the beginning of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and thousand-foot walls soar above its glassy green surface. Bald eagles winter in Curecanti and can be seen diving from the canyon walls for fish until the water freezes over. On a quiet canoe or sea kayaking ride, visitors will eventually see the Curecanti Needle, a sharp spike thrusting from the walls of the canyon.Crystal Reservoir is also open to hand-carried watercraft, and contains the Gunnison Diversion Tunnel, a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. Just beyond lies Crystal dam, the eastern border of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.For camping, fishing regulations, visitors center hours and other information, visit http://www.nps.gov/cure/index.htm.

Located on the western borders of Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Lake, Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain Lake, Monarch Lake, Willow Creek Reservoir and Meadow Creek Reservoir make up whats known as the Great Lakes of Colorado. All but Grand Lake are located within the Arapahoe National Recreation Area.Grand Lake is the largest natural lake in Colorado, formed by the natural damming of mountain streams by a glacial moraine. It serves as one of the headwaters of the Colorado River and is known for being deep, cold and blue. Grand Lake forms a continuous body of water with the artificial Shadow Mountain Lake, which then flows into Lake Granby.Lake Granby is the second largest lake in Colorado after BLue Mesa Reservoir, and has vast potential for motorized and non-motorized boating, fishing and even windsurfing (if you wear a wetsuit). For more information on the Great Lakes region, visit http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/arnf/recreation/anra/index.shtml.

Weve all seen this gorgeous lake from I-70 or on trips to neighboring Summit County, but how many of us have stopped for a sailboat ride? Located 10 miles form the continental divide, massive peaks (including 14ers Grays and Torreys) loom large over the lakes surface, and several small islands break the shallow lakes surface.26.8 miles of shoreline support fishing, boating and other activities, and the ski towns of Frisco, Dillon and Silverthorne provide nearby dining and culture. The Dillon Marina rents 6-person boats for $105 for a two-hour tour thats just $17.50 per person. Multiple sailing schools operate in the various marinas and cost between $45 and $250 depending on duration and intensity. Frisco Bay MArina also offers boat rentals, and a single-person kayak can be as little as $22 for two hours.The Dillon Reservoir is the largest water storage facility in denvers water system, and building the dam required relocating the entire town of Dillon. Frisco features a trail system that runs along the edge of the lake.For more information, visit http://www.dillonmarina.com/ or http://www.townoffrisco.com/visitors/marina.html.

Twin Lakes are the largest glacial lakes in Colorado, nestled at the foot of the states tallest peak, Mt. Elbert. Campgrounds and trails all around the lake reveal the areas scenic grandeur.Two historic areas sprung up around Twin Lakes: Twin Lakes Village and Interlaken. Twin Lakes Villages has a restaurant, a bed and breakfast, general store and a few homey antiques shops. Interlaken was a once-famous resort area founded by mining magnate James Dexter. The portion of the Colorado Trail along the lake takes the curious to the remains of the resort, where Dexters nautical-themed cabin lies preserved.Independence Pass lies just behind Twin Lakes, and even a partial hike up the South Mt. Elbert Trail provides vast views of the lakes, the valley and the peaks beyond. Because these lakes are above 10,000 feet, conditions here will deteriorate much more quickly. Aspiring boaters, fishers and visitors should visit quickly before winter freezes the region.For more information, visit http://www.leadville.com/twinlakes/.

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