Meadow Creek Reservoir, Colorado, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Colorado - Northwest -

Also known as:  Meadow Creek Lake

Meadow Creek Reservoir is a little Colorado lake with a well-deserved reputation as a desirable destination. Only 50 acres in size, the small reservoir was built in the early 1970s as a water storage reservoir for Denver Water. The little reservoir, only 58 feet deep, serves as a collection point for the expansive Moffat Tunnel Collection System. Using this system of reservoirs, rivers, tunnels and canals, the headwaters of the Colorado River along the Western Slope in Northwest Colorado provide a large portion of the water supply for the City of Denver and other growing cities in between. The reason most visitors come to Meadow Creek Reservoir isn’t the water supply but the opportunity for fishing, primitive camping and hiking the many trails leading from the reservoir into the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area and Arapaho National Forest. Because of its prominence as a hiking junction, Meadow Creek Reservoir richly deserves its designation as one of the Colorado Great Lakes.

Although located in a remote area of the Arapaho National Forest, Meadow Creek Reservoir can be reached by car. A county road circles three-quarters of the lake, with a parking area for those arriving to hike the surrounding trails. There is no designated campground, but those with the appropriate permit are allowed to camp off the road as long as they don’t camp within 100 feet of the water. There are no fancy campground amenities available; one pit toilet is provided but no drinking water. The lake is at 9,958 feet in elevation, so the road may be impassible in winter. Snowmobiles may be the only way to get here if ice fishing or winter camping is the goal. As there is no boat launch ramp and no motorized boats are allowed, the area remains quiet, the water surface serene. Most of the shoreline is accessible for bank fishing, but part of the south shoreline is privately owned.

Meadow Creek Reservoir is the perfect place to bring the children fishing. The lake holds rainbow trout and cutthroat trout, with a large number of smaller brook trout. Creel limits are set higher than usual for these smaller trout, and anglers are encouraged to keep them to reduce the numbers. Both fishermen and nature lovers use canoes, kayaks and float tubes on the lake. Some bring small sailboats that can be launched by hand. Every visitor is left with memories of the surrounding peaks and forests reflected in the pristine lake. Permits are available at a kiosk near the dam during the summer months.

Meadow Creek Reservoir lies in Grand County, the home of Lake Granby, Grand Lake, Monarch Lake, Willow Creek Reservoir and a number of other well-known reservoirs and lakes. As over 70% of Grand County is public lands, the county has become a go-to destination for adventurous hikers and outdoors fans. In winter, parts of the Arapaho National Forest are available for hunting. Some trails in the area are available for horseback riding, mountain biking and off-road-vehicles. Others are strictly hiking trails of varying degrees of difficulty.

The Junco Lake Trailhead at the eastern end of Meadow Creek Reservoir is relatively easy and follows an old logging road. Other trails it intersects include the Columbine Lake Trail and the Caribou Pass Trail. The latter climbs through alpine tundra to nearly 12,000 feet; crossing the Pass requires crossing a narrow ledge at dizzying heights . Eventually, the Caribou Pass trail intersects the Arapaho Pass trail. Another trail leading away from the Junco Lake trailhead is the High Lonesome Trail heading both into the Indian Peak Wilderness and south toward the town of Frazier. The High Lonesome is easy and well-marked. The portions outside of the Wilderness Area are available for mountain bike riding and horseback riding. In winter, some of the trail is designated for snowmobiling. All hikers must check in at the wilderness forest service registration box and verify their intended route. As always, it is wise to let someone know your hiking route and expected time of return.

For those interested in a quiet day of fishing or nature enjoyment on Meadow Creek Reservoir, but not inclined to engage in primitive camping or strenuous hiking, the recreational destination of Winter Park-Frazier is less than 15 miles to the south. The two towns share a boundary line and a commitment to providing superb recreation to a large number of annual visitors, particularly in winter. All types of lodgings are available in the area, with ski resorts, lodges, guest ranches, bed-and-breakfasts and small motels in plentiful supply. During prime ski season, reservations will likely be necessary. Between Frazier and Winter Park, there are activities going on year around to entice visitors.

In summer, there are hot air balloon rides, music festivals and fairs; the High Country Stampede and Rodeo is in session Saturday nights in July and August. The Cozens Ranch Museum in Frazier and the Grand County Museum in Hot Sulphur Springs both offer historic exhibits and activities geared toward educating the public about pioneer life on the Western Slope in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Frazier holds the claim of once being referred to as the Western White House, as President Eisenhower spent many vacations fly-fishing for trout in the tributaries to the Frazier River. One could easily spend a week or two in the area with a full range of activities along with visiting Meadow Creek Reservoir. Real estate is available near Frazier, but far less can be found near Meadow Creek Reservoir.

This area of Colorado is quite arid, and water has always been at a premium. An elaborate and ever-expanding system of water rights controls who gets what percentage of the surface water in the area. Water from Meadow Creek Reservoir is piped through a diversion tunnel south to where it intersects the main Moffat Tunnel for transfer to the Denver water treatment plants. In recent years, Denver and its suburbs have grown, as have the towns on the Western Slope. Additionally, environmental concerns have reserved more water to assure the survival of native fish, plants and animals. The history of the Colorado courts is filled with epic fights over water rights and the shenanigans of the less ethical to claim more than their fair share. For now, everyone is satisfied that the water is being divided fairly. But, the future is uncertain as population grows in both areas. More small reservoirs like Meadow Creek Reservoir may soon be necessary. Small man-made lakes like Meadow Creek are worth their weight in gold. Won’t you come and experience a golden sunset on Meadow Creek Reservoir?

Things to do at Meadow Creek Reservoir

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • National Forest
  • Museum

Fish species found at Meadow Creek Reservoir

  • Brook Trout
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Trout

Meadow Creek Reservoir Photo Gallery

Meadow Creek Reservoir Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Denver Water Board

Surface Area: 50 acres

Shoreline Length: 2 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 9,958 feet

Maximum Depth: 58 feet

Water Volume: 5,100 acre-feet

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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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