Standley Lake, Colorado, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Colorado - Front Range -

A welcoming oasis on Colorado’s dry Front Range region, Standley Lake draws residents and visitors alike to its shores. Unsung sentinel to the north Denver suburbs population growth, the Standley Lake Reservoir provides drinking water to over 250,000 people – and so much more. Citizens of Westminster to the east and Arvada to the south enjoy the calming views of quiet waters as they go about their daily business, knowing the lake’s open spaces will be there for their enjoyment whenever they choose to visit.

This was not always so, however: farmers in the 1800s struggled to secure enough water for crops. Many disagreements, some violent, pitted upstream farmers against those downstream during the many dry years. Long before Denver or Boulder were growing cities, settlers were tied to the creek banks in a never-ending quest for enough precious water to make a living. Away from the river’s course, few businesses could survive on scarce well-water alone. Finally, in 1905, the Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Company was formed to channel and store water from Clear Creek. The resulting reservoir was named Standley Lake after Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Company’s first secretary, OJ Standley.

For awhile, it appeared the reservoir wouldn’t be built as several landowners were reluctant to give up their land, insisting gold deposits existed below the proposed reservoir. A unique purchase agreement gave the original owners continued mineral rights at 500 feet below the reservoir bed. To date, there has apparently been no concerted effort to reach the rumored gold – the liquid gold in the reservoir, in the form of water, has proved value enough. A mile-long dam was built to contain the water from the three inlet canals; Farmers High Line Canal,Church Ditch and Croke Canal, all diverted from Clear Creek below Golden. By 1919, the original reservoir was filled, providing a vastly larger supply of water for farming and homes. Standley Lake was born.

Because of the inability of the city of Denver to provide residential water to the suburb of Westminster, Standley Lake Dam was enlarged in 1963 to increase capacity to nearly 43,000 acre-feet and give Westminster part-ownership of the stored water. Standley Lake now provides drinking water to not only Westminster, but Thornton and Northglenn. A complicated arrangement of rights gives water rights for Standley Lake to Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Company (FRICO), and the surface recreation rights are leased to the City of Westminster for use as a recreation area. An intergovernmental agreement governs water use and is managed by the Standley Lake Operations Committee, comprised of officials from the cities of Westminster, Northglenn and Thornton, as well as Jefferson County and FRICO.

To provide access to the beautiful lake, the Standley Lake Regional Park was created, encompassing areas on both the north and south shores. Once part of unincorporated Jefferson County, the north entrance to the Park is now from city streets. The park includes such amenities as a comfort station that includes restrooms, drinking fountain, pay phone and outside rinsing showers. A fish cleaning station is located near the comfort station. Both are closed during the winter months. There are also portable toilets positioned in other areas throughout the park, near horseshoe pits and volleyball courts. Near the comfort station is a campground and boat trailer parking lot. A four-lane boat ramp allows for convenient boat launches augmented by two auxiliary boat ramps, one near the south side of the dam and the other in the main day use area. A Nature Center offers exhibits in history of the area and examples of park wildlife.

Standley Lake has a unique method of making sure power boaters don’t take over the natural focus of the lake: boats with over 20 horsepower motors must obtain a permit, issued by lottery. The limited number of permits are first issued to local residents of the three towns owning water rights then to outside visitors. Day use by smaller boats is unlimited, making canoeing, kayaking and sailing favored activities. In keeping with the non-powered emphasis, a local non-profit sailing club provides sailing lessons to both children and adults. A small area of the north shore is off-limits as a sanctuary for a Bald Eagle nesting pair that has called the lake home for several years. Lucky visitors may see one of the pair swoop down to capture dinner for the chicks in the form of the parks’ most numerous four-legged residents: prairie dogs. Viewing stations are available to view the nesting site.

Fishermen are always welcome at Standley Lake. An inspection and permit system for all boats assures that invasive aquatic plants and mollusks don’t gain access to the water. The lake is stocked both as a warm and a cold-water fishery and supports Bluegill, Brown Trout, Carp, Catfish, Crappie, Cutbow Trout, Cutthroat Trout, Largemouth Bass, Perch, Rainbow Trout, Smallmouth Bass, Walleye and Wiper. Areas near the dam are suggested as good game fish locations. The dam itself is private FRICO property and is off-limits to the public. The reservoir is well known for its walleye fishing. Anglers need to be mindful that the lake has some unusual fishing limitations and pick up a regulatory guidebook before going out on the water.

Standley Lake is a unique wildlife viewing area, with the lake developed in the midst of a short-grass prairie. A variety of water birds, including great blue herons, white pelicans, western grebes, cormorants, gulls, Canadian geese, mallard ducks. Swainson’s hawks, prairie falcons, red-tailed hawks and nesting great horned owls call the lake home. Another lake dweller is the beaver. Mule deer, coyotes, red fox and other animals are commonly seen and burrowing owls and rabbits live in the prairie dog burrows. A trail from the nature Center leads to the bald eagle viewing blind. There is a well-maintained system of trails throughout both north and south portions of the park for hiking and cycling. Trails in the park connect to the city’s extensive trail network and are the starting point for Big Dry Creek Trail and the Farmers’ High Line Canal Trail. Two walk-in parking areas make trail access convenient to joggers and casual visitors.

Besides the shopping, restaurants, golf courses and amenities provided in Westminster and Arvada, Standley Lake is only 15 miles from downtown Boulder and Denver. This close proximity makes the Standley Lake area an excellent choice for an urban/lakefront vacation. Short and long-term lake- or mountain-view rentals and condos are available in all of these cities and can make it a unique working-vacation destination for a family whose breadwinner has business to attend to in Denver or Boulder. The kids can be swimming, taking sailing lessons or visiting the Nature Centers at either Standley Lake or Arvada while Dad tends to business in downtown Denver. Later, they can be tucked in within sight of the lakeshore under the watchful eye of a sitter while Mom and Dad head back in to the big city for some nightlife or fine dining. Denver has a spectacular menu of cultural activities and venues plus an excellent zoo. The Butterfly Pavilion, where butterflies are released daily, also provides a full menu of educational experiences and hands-on craft activities to the delight of all ages so parents should plan to take advantage of a visit with kids in tow at least once.

If you wish to experience the perfect Colorado Lake vacation, Standley Lake can provide both the water and the amenities you’re looking for. Search out vacation lodgings today and find out what you’ve been missing.

Things to do at Standley Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Standley Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Brown Trout
  • Carp
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Cutbow
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • Walleye

Standley Lake Photo Gallery

Standley Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: City of Westminster

Surface Area: 1,200 acres

Shoreline Length: 7 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 5,506 feet

Average Depth: 36 feet

Maximum Depth: 96 feet

Water Volume: 43,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1966

Water Residence Time: 1 year

Drainage Area: 2 sq. miles

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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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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