Sylvan Lake’s big dam project: Construction closes popular site this summer |

Sylvan Lake’s big dam project: Construction closes popular site this summer

An overheadshot of the Sylvan Lake dam construction.
Photo courtesy Sylvan Lake State Park

EAGLE — Before they can build it back up, crews at work on the new Sylvan Lake dam had to demolish the 70-year-old structure on site.

According to Sylvan Lake State Park Supervisor Michael Wall, that demolition work is done and the prep work is well underway for the new dam.

“They think once they are through with the prep stage, the work will go more quickly,” Wall said.

Replacement of the 1940s-era earthen dam at the site has closed most of the Sylvan Lake amenities this summer, including the cabins and campsites at the lake and the trail around the lake itself. While there wasn’t any imminent danger associated with the old dam, Wall noted to prevent future failures, the park needed a new dam that meets current standards. The lake has been significantly drained, and heavy equipment is mobilized at the site.

Wall said crews are currently working on the outlet and spillway at the site.

“The outlet structure is basically a gate at the lowest point of the lake,” he said. “Pretty much every modern reservoir has an outlet structure so you can maintain the water level.”

The outlet can be opened when the lake level is too high or when stream flows along Brush Creek need to be augmented, Wall said.

Once the outlet and spillway features are complete, a new concrete dam structure will be built, and then the whole apparatus will be covered with dirt so it will look like the earthen dam it replaces.

“Building a safe dam was our first priority, but making it aesthetically pleasing was a second priority,” Wall said. “We are building this modern structure so it can be covered with dirt and no one can see it. We didn’t want to it look like a big piece of concrete out in the woods.”

Informed public

Considering what a popular site it is during the summer months, the Sylvan Lake closure hasn’t caused a lot of headaches with the public, Wall said.

He noted the Colorado Parks and Wildlife camping reservations system lets people know about the work underway and the unavailability of camping at the site. Additionally, signs along Interstate 70 and up Brush Creek inform would-be campers that the site is closed this summer.

“The public seems to have gotten the message,” Wall said. “There just haven’t been a lot of surprises, and I really appreciate the fact the public has stayed out of the closed areas.”

As concrete work amps up in the next few weeks, Wall warned Eagle residents and bicyclists who ride along Brush Creek Road to be prepared.

“Bikers should be extra careful because the truck traffic will be increasing,” Wall said

While most of the cabins at Sylvan Lake aren’t being rented this summer, Wall noted some of the upper cabins and outlying yurts are available. But, Wall stressed, campers won’t enjoy the park experience that Sylvan Lake usually offers.

“There are generators running all night, so it isn’t as peaceful as it usually is,” he warned.

To date, the construction is on schedule. The work is slated for completion in October.

“We are going to try to open cabins for the hunting season, but I don’t know if we will be able to,” Wall said.

After that, it is just a question of winter coming, snow falling and the reservoir refilling so campers and hikers can return to their favorite spot for the summer of 2019 and beyond.

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