Second summer in, some good dam construction news at Sylvan Lake

Dam reconstruction is scheduled for completion by the end of October

Construction crews pour concrete at the Sylvan Lake State Park dam reconstruction site. The work has kept the popular site closed for the past two summers.
Photo courtesy Michael Wall

EAGLE — The second summer is looking like the charm at Sylvan Lake.

For two years now, campers haven’t been able to visit the area, referred to as one of the crown jewels of the Colorado State Parks system. While some facilities remain open at the park, the popular lake has been drained and the trail around the reservoir is closed.

Dam reconstruction at Sylvan Lake, located 10 miles southeast of Eagle, is scheduled for completion by the end of October. Originally, reconstruction of the 1940s-era dam was supposed to be done during the summer of 2018.

“The construction crew is killing it this year. Killing it in a good way,” said Sylvan Lake State Park Supervisor Michael Wall. “They are pouring concrete at a great pace and we are actually a little bit ahead of schedule.”

That’s not to say the project hasn’t seen some obstacles during 2019. The biggest one resulted from last winter’s heavy snowfall.

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Ready for runoff

“This summer we anticipated a high runoff, of course, because of the snowpack,” Wall said. “We prepared the dam for a major runoff so we were able to keep ahead of it.”

The spillway was basically completed by the time the runoff peak hit and some areas were armored to prepare for high water. Crews also installed temporary pumps to accommodate high water and prevent flooding over the spillway.

“The peak was around July 4 and once we saw the flows go down, we were able to get back at it,” Wall said.

The dam construction consists of concrete poured over dirt, with topsoil then poured over the concrete. When completed, the area will be revegetated so it will resemble the previous structure.

The project also includes the construction of a new footbridge at the lake. The bridge was fabricated off-site and will be placed after the construction crew completes abutments to hold the structure.

Making the best of things

While the lake itself, the campsites around it and the popular lake trail have been closed for two years because of the dam construction, some Sylvan Lake State Park facilities remain open including:

  • Sylvan Lake State Park Visitor Center
  • West Brush Creek Trail
  • Eastside camping yurts
  • Four upper cabins

“Normal access to the White River National Forest is also unaffected,” Wall said.

Interstate 70 signs and message boards along Brush Creek Road warn motorists that the popular site is closed.

“I think everyone is anxious to have the lake open, but the public has been really understanding,” Wall said. “Everyone has been very cooperative. We are going to get it back open as quickly and as safely as we possibly can.”

In the meantime, Sylvan Lake State Park staff has been participating in off-site programs at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and the Edwards River Village in conjunction with Mountain Recreation.

Taking a hit

As the one summer closure turned into a two-summer hiatus, Eagle businesses have felt the hit of having the popular site closed.

“Every day we have people asking about it,” said Suzanne Goodwin, manager at the Eagle Regional Visitor Information Center.

“We just try to redirect visitors, but it has definitely hindered keeping business here in Eagle,” Goodwin said. “People definitely visit Sylvan Lake as a destination. It’s a wonderful attraction and its a phenomenal draw.”

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