Horsetooth Reservoir; A Great Place for Water Sports, and Your Dog

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About ten minutes west of the town of Fort Collins, Colorado sits the Horsetooth Reservoir, a six and a half mile long, but fairly narrow lake at the edge of the foothills.  It was created in 1949 when the Bureau of Reclamation put up four dams in the area, as part of a larger project called the Colorado-Big Thompson project.  The intention of the project is to stabilize the supply of drinking water for the cities along the Front Range from Fort Collins down to Pueblo.  They do this by diverting water from the Western Slope (on the other side of the Continental Divide) to the Eastern Slope.  Thus, they effectively take water that would have flowed down the Colorado River to the Pacific Ocean via the Gulf of California.  It is interesting that some people here complain that the Hoover Dam takes significant amounts of water out of the Colorado River when we here on the Front Range in Colorado are also benefiting from water taken from the very same river.

Similar to places like Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the creation of a lake, originally intended as a reservoir to stabilize the supply of drinking water, ended up serving a secondary purpose; providing a spot for water recreation.  In the West, and especially in the Southwest, naturally occurring lakes are fairly rare.  They tend to be smaller and at higher altitudes than their Midwest counterparts.  The naturally occurring lakes I can remember seeing in Colorado are lakes like Fern Lake and Lawn Lake up over 10,000 feet in Rocky Mountain National Park.  With these lakes tougher to get to and smaller, these reservoirs have become a focal point for boating and other water related recreation areas in the region.

Yesterday was a perfect day along Colorado’s Front Range.  Temperatures topped out in the upper 80s to near 90 in most places from Fort Collins to Denver, and no thunderstorms occurred, not even in the foothills.  Afternoon thunderstorms typically occur in the region at this time of year, but yesterday all of the storms occurred West of the Continental Divide.  I guess that is good news for recreation enthusiasts in the populated part of the state of Colorado, but days like yesterday probably illustrate why it was necessary to divert water resources from Colorado’s Western slope to Colorado’s Eastern slope.

Yesterday I got the rare opportunity to join with a few people for some jet skiing on the Horsetooth Reservoir.  I do not own my own jet ski, and I haven’t ridden one for over five years.  But, I remember it being quite fun, and I knew there was no chance of storms in the forecast.  So, it ended up being a nearly perfect activity for a day like yesterday.  Also, since we traveled a significant distance away from Denver, and went on a Wednesday, there was significantly more open space then there would have had we gone to a place near town like Cherry Creek Reservoir on a weekend day.

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Naturally, I got too carried away with the activity to think to get any pictures of myself on the jet skis.  I only got pictures of others.  This should be a testament to just how enjoyable the activity is.

As an added bonus, I got to bring my Siberian Husky; Juno.  Being a cold weather dog, she naturally wanted to get into the water as quickly as possible.  However, being a non-water dog, she spent a large part of the day just on shore, in the shade, periodically going into the water.  She still seemed to have a lot of fun here, in fact, enough to get her completely worn out.  If my husky enjoyed the experience this much, I can only imagine how enjoyable it would be for a retriever to come here for the day.

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The water temperature here yesterday was perfect!  It was in that range where the water is cool enough to feel refreshing, but warm enough that it was comfortable to get in from the very beginning.  This contrasts with some pools I have gone in earlier this summer where the water felt quite cold at the beginning, before gradually getting used to it.  I was concerned that the water here would be even colder than that, but it wasn’t!

Overall, Horsetooth Reservoir was worth the $7 entry fee.  I am not sure how much more crowded it is on the weekends.  However, given the fact that this year’s weather in Colorado appears to have been fairly typical, I would expect most years to feature water temperatures in the same general range as yesterday’s, making Horsetooth Reservoir a wonderful place to go for both water sports, and dogs.

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