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Explore Elkhead Reservoir

Part of a herd of elk herd, a female cow wades into and drinks from the cold Rocky Mountain water of Lake Estes in Estes Park, Colorado.

Don’t miss the opportunity to explore one of Northwest Colorado’s top recreational areas. Elkhead Reservoir State Park offers 2,200 acres of greenery, beaches, fishing spots, trails, and campsites.

But the crowning jewel of this outdoor attraction is a 900-acre reservoir on Elkhead Creek. Learn more about the reservoir to make the most of your visit.

About the reservoir

Constructed in 1974, the reservoir was the result of a partnership between Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Yampa Participants. The dam had a capacity of over 13,700 acre feet of water to be used for both industrial and recreational purposes. It also serves as a wildlife habitat, as it is home to four endangered fish species, and as a secondary water source for the small city of Craig.

Elkhead Reservoir underwent extensive renovations in the early 2000s, which were completed in 2006. The reservoir was enlarged and its facilities had been updated.

Debris boom 600-foot long net made of Dyneema, a high strength kind of polyester fiber, have also been installed. The net is meant to keep gamefish confined to a certain area, while the debris boom protects the net from the logs that float through the reservoir.

Fishing in Elkhead Reservoir

The reservoir is teeming with smallmouth bass and northern pike. It hosts the annual Elkhead Reservoir Classic Fishing Tournament, a week-long event that traditionally takes place in late June. The tournament was conceived with the idea of controlling the quantity of aggressive non-native fish in the reservoir, as well as provide anglers with a high profile sporting event.

If you’re not feeling competitive, you can opt out of the tournament and enjoy recreational fishing in your own time. The reservoir gets stocked with fish on a regular basis – in 2017, more than a hundred largemouth bass and over 125,000 fry were introduced to the ecosystem.

When the reservoir freezes over in the winter, anglers can simply drop a line through the ice.

General rules and regulations on fishing in Elkhead Reservoir include:

  • Anglers 16 years and older must purchase a fishing license to be able to fish or take fish, crustaceans, and amphibians from the reservoir unless otherwise prohibited.
  • Anglers under 16 are allowed take a possession limit and full bag without a fishing license.
  • Colorado residents aged 64 and above can get an annual fishing license from an authorized provider for $1.

Other water-based activities in the reservoir include boating, jet skiing, canoeing, and sailboarding.

East Beach is perfect for swimming and sunbathing.

Other activities in Elkhead Reservoir State Park

Camping – Rough it up at Bear’s Ears Campground, which features 16 campsites overlooking the reservoir. Each site has a fire pit, picnic table, and shade shelter, and serves as the ideal base for fishing, boating, and hiking in the state park.

Hiking – Here you’ll find a lightly trafficked, one-mile trail that offers views of the reservoir. The trail is open to hikers of all skill levels. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash at all times.

Wildlife viewing – Winter is the best time to for elk and deer sightings in the state park. These magnificent creatures can often be spotted around the reservoir during the cold months.

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