Grand Lake, Colorado, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Colorado - Front Range -

Nestled in the Rocky Mountains and filled with water from melting snow, Grand Lake is the headwaters of the Colorado River and one of the state’s treasures. With its majestic scenery, pristine water and abundant wildlife, the lake is the perfect place for a Rocky Mountain getaway.

Surrounded by the Arapahoe National Forest, Grand Lake is the largest natural body of water in Colorado, and at 265 feet it is also the deepest. The lake was formed during a past ice age when glacial moraine or debris damned several streams. Until 1938 all the inflow into Grand Lake was pure snow melt. 1938 through 1957 marked the construction of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project making Grand Lake part of the state’s largest transbasin diversion project. The Colorado-Big Thompson Project connected Grand Lake with Shadow Mountain Reservoir, a man made storage reservoir. Water flows from the lake and reservoir through the Alva B. Adams Tunnel and under the Continental Divide. By law, Grand Lake must remain full, but instead of just being filled with pure snow melt, occasionally water from the shallower Shadow Mountain Reservoir flows into the lake to maintain its levels.

With the exception of sailboats, most boats can use the connection to pass from Shadow Mountain Reservoir to Grand Lake. There are marinas on both lakes and Grand Lake boasts the “World’s Highest Yacht Anchorage.” Started in 1902, the Grand Lake Yacht Club is host to the Grand Lake Regatta and Lipton Cup Races. Held in late summer annually since 1912, racers compete for a cup given to the Yacht Club by Sir Thomas Lipton, the famous tea magnet. Boaters can also jet ski and water ski, and there is scuba diving including night diving.

Known as one of the best trout lakes in the state, fishermen will find plenty of fish to challenge them. The lake has Mackinaws, rainbow, and brown trout along with Kokanee salmon, and it’s not uncommon to pull fish out of the lake weighing over twenty pounds. Grand Lake along with Shadow Mountain Reservoir and nearby Lake Granby make up the three lakes region of Grand County and have over 150 miles of shoreline to challenge fly fishermen.

Bordered on three sides by the Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Lake offers plenty of opportunities to see wildlife including coyotes, black bear, moose, big horn sheep and cougars. There are miles of hiking and horse back riding trails nearby and in the winter snowshoeing and cross country skiing. With mountain peaks in excess of 14,000 feet, Rocky Mountain National Park is a majestic backdrop to Grand Lake.

Originally called Spirit Lake by the Ute and Arapahoe Indians who used it as their summer grounds, Grand Lake drew settlers west as a supplier for the mining and gold rush. When the rush ended Grand Lake stayed a tourist destination. Established in its present site in 1881 on the northern shores of the lake, the historic village of Grand Lake is the oldest resort community in Colorado.

Today visitors can explore the areas history at the Kauffman House Museum. Built in 1892 by Ezra Kauffman, the log hotel was run by the Kauffman family until 1946. Ice was cut from Grand Lake, packed in sawdust, and stored in the ice house for use by summer guests, and the hotel’s first water system pumped water from the lake by hand into a tank in the attic. The museum is on the National Register of Historic Places and is run by the Grand Lake Historical Society.

Grand Lake’s tradition as a resort community continues today. During warmer months visitors can play golf in the shadow of the snow capped peaks of the Continental Divide. During winter months there is skiing, snowmobiling, and all kinds of winter sports. With its fantastic fishing, boating, and rich history, Grand Lake is sure to become a repeat mountain destination.

Things to do at Grand Lake CO

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Scuba Diving
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Snowshoeing
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • National Park
  • National Forest
  • Museum

Fish species found at Grand Lake CO

  • Brown Trout
  • Kokanee Salmon
  • Salmon
  • Trout

Grand Lake CO Photo Gallery

Grand Lake CO Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 515 acres

Shoreline Length: 5 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 8,367 feet

Maximum Depth: 256 feet

Water Volume: 68,600 acre-feet

Lake Area-Population: 476

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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