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As spring takes its first tentative steps in our state, Colorado’s lakes and reservoirs, at least the lower elevation ones, have begun to open for boating. 

North Sterling State Park

North Sterling State Park opened to boating at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 26.  The park’s Elks Boat Ramp will open first, with its Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) inspection station hours running from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Thursdays through Mondays, and seven days a week starting April 1. 

The south boat ramp will not open until later in the spring, likely in May. Boaters should check to make sure they have the appropriate and required safety equipment on board. 

Rifle Gap and Harvey Gap Reservoirs 

Rifle Gap and Harvey Gap Reservoirs will open for boating on April 1. In addition to an Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) check, boaters are required to carry personal flotation devices (PFD), and Colorado boating regulations also require all children under age 13 to wear PFDs at all times while on the water. Boaters must also have a current boat registration with the registration numbers visible on the watercraft. 

The ANS inspection hours for both reservoirs are:

  • April 1 – 30: 8:00  a.m. to 4:00  p.m.
  • May 1 – 26: 7:00  a.m. to 7:00  p.m.
  • May 27 – Close of boating season: 7:00  a.m. to 9:00  p.m.

More information about both reservoirs can be found on CPW’s website. 

Chatfield and Cherry Creek Reservoirs 

The two busiest state parks in the Denver Metro Area, Chatfield and Cherry Creek, will also be opening for boating on April 1, barring any safety-related delays. 

Water temperatures will start off very cold as the ice has just finished melting,” said Cherry Creek State Park Manager Jason Trujillo. “All safety equipment needs to be inspected and accounted for prior to visiting the reservoirs. Personal floatation devices or “life jackets” are the most important pieces of equipment to keep you safe. We want you to wear it, as we have seen too many lives lost when boaters can’t get to them during an emergency.”

Chatfield has two boat ramps but only the south one will be open for now. 

  • The south boat ramp, located on the southeast side of the reservoir, has two launch lanes and one courtesy dock. It will be open seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • The north boat ramps, located on the northwest side of the reservoir, have eight launch lanes and four courtesy docks and will remain closed. Their opening will be announced when adequate staffing is available.

Cherry Creek will only have one ramp open in April:

  • The west boat ramp, which can be accessed by entering the park off South Dayton St., is open seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • The east ramp will be opened and announced when adequate staffing is available. 

Additional information about ANS inspections, required equipment, PFD rules, and CO boating rules are available on the CPW website. 

Jackson Lake State Park

Jackson Lake State Park, a popular fishing and water-sport destination in Morgan County, will open its reservoir to boating on Friday, April 1. 

ANS inspections will run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day in April and May. On weekends after Memorial Day through Labor Day, the ANS station will be open from 7:00 a.m. to sunset. 

At Jackson Lake: 

  • Boats are allowed in designated areas only. 
  • If the weather looks like it’s going to turn, start early to dock your boat and avoid lines. 
  • The Shoreline Marina is located on the west side of the lake​. 
  • Any vessel towing a skier must have both an observer and an operator. Boaters are asked to ski counter-clockwise and to spread out to avoid congestion. 

Jackson Lake was built for irrigation purposes, so boaters should check conditions on the main page for up-to-date information regarding water levels, boating conditions, etc.​

Lake Pueblo State Park

Lake Pueblo State Park will also be changing their boat ramp operating hours for summer. Starting April 1, Lake Pueblo’s boat ramps will be open from 5:00 a.m. to 12:00 midnight, coinciding with the mandatory ANS inspection hours.

No boats will be allowed to load or launch when ANS inspectors are not on duty.

“We are committed to keeping Lake Pueblo free of zebra and quagga mussels,” said Becky Buist, Park Operations Manager. “We appreciate the cooperation of the boating public in protecting our waters, and our important drinking water infrastructure, from these dangerous invasive species.”

More information about park hours, ANS inspections, and boat ramps is available by calling the park at 719-561-9320 or visiting Lake Pueblo’s summer hours will be in place until October 15.

Featured image: The four-lane boat ramp on the west shore of the Jackson Lake State Park reservoir. Photo courtesy of CPW.