In Colorado, taking a dip in a bright blue lake with majestic mountain peaks, usually calls for putting on your hiking boots and taking a long hike. But at Ridgway State Park, it’s an easy stroll down to sandy beaches where 1,030 surface-acres of crisp water awaits, mountain backdrop included.
At an elevation of 6,871 feet, the Ridgway Reservoir stretches about five miles long and is enclosed by hillsides of pinyon-juniper woodland and sagebrush. There are three recreation sites (Dallas Creek, Dutch Charlie, and Pa Co Chu Puk) each offering water access to the lake, river, or both. The park boasts a myriad of activities including camping, hiking, biking and wildlife viewing. During the summer, locals and visitors come for the valley’s most treasured resource… water.
Sailing may not be the first activity that comes to mind when recreating on the Western Slope, yet the Ridgway State Park sees sailors and windsurfers, among other water-sports enthusiasts. Warm sunny days in the summertime makes the reservoir extremely attractive for jet skiing, tubing, water skiing and wakeboarding. The four-lane concrete boat ramp stretches to the lower limits of the water level, so boaters are able to launch in varying conditions.
As stand up paddle boards (SUPs) have made a splash over the years, the reservoir has quickly become a destination for boarders seeking out pristine waters with stunning mountain views. It’s a sport that welcomes everybody, simply relax on the board and paddle around or engage in a full body workout. SUPs are typically available for rent hourly during summer season at the Dallas Creek entrance or in town in Ridgway or Montrose.
When the water levels are high, the Dutch Charlie designated swim beach is the ideal place to take a dip, catch a tan or spike a volleyball. This site features changing rooms with lockers and outdoor showers. Further south, the dog-friendly Dallas Creek recreation site also allows swimming from the shoreline in the designated no wake-zone.
Both the reservoir and river sites are ideal fishing locations within the park. Two hundred feet below the dam is the site called Pa Co Chu Puk, a Ute Indian term for “Cow Creek.” This stretch of the Uncompahgre River is becoming known as one of Colorado’s premier tailwater fisheries for catch and release fishing. Within the reservoir, stocked rainbow trout, brown trout and Kokanee salmon make up the game fish.
As Ridgway State Park draws in visitors from across the country, a lesser known state park further downstream serves as a hidden gem for water recreation in the Uncompahgre Valley. Sweitzer Lake State Park is tucked away just minutes from downtown Delta and features a beautiful 137-acre lake with a sandy shoreline. From canoeing and jet skiing to picnicking and lounging, it’s yet another picturesque retreat in the valley for water activities.