Shadow Mountain Lake, Colorado, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Colorado - Front Range -

Set against the backdrop of the majestic Rocky Mountains in Colorado’s Front Range region, Shadow Mountain Lake is a picture-postcard Colorado getaway. Bordered by the Rocky Mountain National Park on one side and the Arapaho National Recreation Area on the other and connected to the clear deep water of Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Lake calls outdoor enthusiasts from across the world.

Shadow Mountain Lake is part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. The reservoir is an impoundment of the Colorado River by the Shadow Mountain Dam. Construction on the earth fill dam began in 1944 and was completed in 1946. It is one of a hundred structures that make up the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Operated by the Bureau of Reclamation, the Project was designed to divert water from the Colorado River on the western slope of the Continental Divide to the east slope of the Rocky Mountains. Shadow Mountain Lake is directly connected to Grand Lake, Colorado’s largest and deepest natural lake. It also receives water from Lake Granby which is 1.8 miles away. The three lakes are referred to as sister lakes and together make up the “Three Lakes” region of Grand County. Water flows from Shadow Mountain Lake through the Alva B. Adams Tunnel to the eastern slope where it is used for irrigation and to meet municipal and industrial needs.

With 1,346 surface acres of water, Shadow Mountain Lake is much larger than Grand Lake. Its maximum depth, however, is just 24 feet making it much shallower than Grand Lake’s 265 feet. By law Grand Lake must remain full, and occasionally water from Shadow Mountain Lake is allowed to flow into Grand Lake, causing some concern over water quality.

Most boats, with the exception of sailboats, can also move from one lake to the other. There are marinas and public boat launches on both lakes. Power boats are popular, and there is plenty of room to jet ski and water ski. The fishing is very good, and Shadow Mountain Lake has healthy populations of brown trout, rainbow trout, and salmon.

Shadow Mountain Lake is surrounded by the Arapaho National Recreation Area. The 36,000 acre recreation area near the west entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park was established in 1978 and is part of the Arapaho National Forest in the upper Colorado River Valley. The Arapaho National Recreation Area includes four other lakes, Meadow Creek Reservoir, Monarch Lake, Granby Lake, and Willow Creek Reservoir. Along with Grand Lake the lakes are often referred to as the “Great Lakes of Colorado.”

There are miles of trails for hiking, biking and horse back riding in the Arapaho National Recreation Area including the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. Although not specifically groomed, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing are popular in the winter. Wildlife includes but is in no way limited to elk, deer, moose, coyote, and bear, and there are also golden and bald eagles. Hunters will find plenty of large and small game animals and waterfowl.

Dedicated in 1915 by Woodrow Wilson, the Rocky Mountain National Park is the nation’s tenth national park. With elevations ranging from 8,000 feet to 14,259 feet at Longs Peak, the scenery is unsurpassed. The wildflowers explode in early summer, and in the winter visitors can snow shoe or cross-country ski through the park to see the abundant wildlife.

The East Shore Trailhead runs 3.5 miles from the dam on Shadow Mountain Lake to the suburbs of the Town of Grand Lake. Established in the late 1870’s, Grand Lake is the oldest resort community in Colorado and it maintains its historic charm. There are shops, restaurants, and galleries. Accommodations range from hotels and bed and breakfasts to vacation rentals. There are plenty of camping options around Shadow Mountain Lake and in the Rocky Mountain National Park.

The area around Shadow Mountain Lake has a long, rich history as a resort and recreation community. With the majestic backdrop of the Rocky Mountains and abundant wildlife, this Colorado Great Lake has something to please everyone.

Things to do at Shadow Mountain Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park
  • National Forest

Fish species found at Shadow Mountain Lake

  • Brown Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Trout

Shadow Mountain Lake Photo Gallery

Shadow Mountain Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Bureau of Reclamation

Surface Area: 1,346 acres

Shoreline Length: 8 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 8,367 feet

Maximum Depth: 24 feet

Water Volume: 18,369 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1946

Water Residence Time: 18 days

Drainage Area: 187 sq. miles

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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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