Steamboat Lake, Colorado, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Colorado - Northwest -

If fishing one “gold medal” lake is good, then two must be better – and that is just what you will find at Steamboat Lake in northwestern Colorado. This angler’s paradise can be found within Steamboat Lake State Park and a mere three miles southeast at Pearl Lake State Park. The more quiet fishing retreat is 167-acre Pearl Lake. Set within the pristine countryside at the base of Farwell Mountain, Pearl Lake was specifically built for fishing and recreation. Larger Steamboat Lake State Park rests at the base of Hahn’s Peak and offers extensive visitor services. Located 21 miles north of Steamboat Springs and 20 miles south of the Wyoming border, both parks are popular year-round recreation areas with exceptional fisheries for cutthroat trout.

Mention the name “Steamboat” and you immediately draw a connection to the outdoor attractions found in Colorado’s Northwest Tourism Region. It remains a question whether a French fur trapper or Missouri emigrant first coined the phrase “Steamboat Springs,” but all accounts agree that it was steam spewing from area hot springs that generated the sound of a steamboat. While hot springs may have provided the name for Steamboat Lake, gold was the attraction that brought settlers to what would become Routt County. Close to Steamboat Lake, mining took place on 11,000-foot Hahn’s Peak in the 1860s. By the 1920s the area’s economic base had changed to ranching, logging and outdoor recreation.

Built on Willow Creek, Steamboat Lake dam was under construction in the 1960s and completed by 1968. The resulting reservoir now reaches a maximum depth of 70 feet and average depth of 25 feet. Also receiving water from Mill Creek, Larsen Creek, Floyd Creek and Dutch Creek, the reservoir is owned and operated by the Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation (CDPOR). While built for recreation, the reservoir’s storage capacity exceeding 26,000 acre-feet is designed to provide a backup water supply for Hayden Station Power Plant.

It is said that the dam area and several stream inlets on the west side of Steamboat Lake are good locations for bait, lure and fly fishing. Having received the designation of “gold medal” lake, anglers will find excellent rainbow and cutthroat trout with an occasional brook or brown trout. The park service maintains a bag limit of “four trout daily with a possession limit of eight trout total.” A required Colorado fishing license may be purchased at the lake’s marina. A handicapped accessible fishing pier is available at Sage Flats at the southeastern end of Steamboat Lake.

Boating is a major attraction on 1,011-acre Steamboat Lake. Coves and inlets along the north and west shore are restricted no-wake zones. The remainder of Steamboat Lake is open for wake boating, water-skiers and jet-skiers. Several boat ramps are available along the shore with a marina providing docks, boat rentals, bait and a convenience store.

The spectacular views of Routt National Forest make Steamboat Lake State Park an ideal location for family outings. Choice picnic sites along the lake shore or in the forest include picnic tables, fire rings or cooking grills. While spending the day at Steamboat Lake, be sure to stop at the visitor’s center where displays and educational programs tell the story of Steamboat Springs State Park. For those brave enough to swim the cold water, a swim beach is available along the north shore.

Visitors who come to Steamboat Lake for more than a day will find non-electric and electric campsites. Camper cabins are available year-round. Amenities and services include restrooms, coin-operated showers, laundry, boat trailer storage and a dump station. Camping permits are required in addition to the daily or annual park pass.

The breathtaking peaks at Steamboat Lake form along the Continental Divide where varied landscapes include sagebrush, bitterbrush, rabbitbrush and lupine leading up the slopes to lodgepole pines and aspen trees. The spectacular scenery draws bird watchers and wildlife watchers to Steamboat Lake. A watchful eye may catch a glimpse of a red fox, mule deer, elk, beaver, snowshoe hare or black bear. Wet meadows found along the tributaries and shores of Steamboat Lake attract bald eagles, northern harrier, osprey, great blue heron, and western screech owl. If you are fortunate, you may observe greater sandhill cranes returning to nest in the spring.

During winter months exceptional hiking and mountain biking trails found within Steamboat Lake State Park become snowshoe and cross-country ski trails. Horseback riding is available within undeveloped park land. Move into surrounding Routt National Forest and you will have access to land and countless trails from north central Colorado into central Wyoming. Within the forest, over 150 miles of trails provide access to a true wilderness experience. One of the country’s first wilderness areas, Mount Zirkel Wilderness lies about 15 miles east of Steamboat Lake. With almost 160,000 acres, Mount Zirkel Wilderness spans the Continental Divide and contains over 70 lakes and 15 mountain peaks exceeding 12,000 feet.

For a taste of urban life, the community of Steamboat Springs, also called Ski Town USA, is a quick drive south of Steamboat Lake. Winter sports and summer adventures draw year-round visitors to this community of over 10,000 residents. Catering to varied tastes of world visitors, Steamboat Springs provides an irresistible assortment of shops and restaurants that will satisfy every taste. Along the Yampa River, and within the city itself, visitors will find golf courses, indoor and outdoor tennis, biking, hiking, hot springs, kayaking, fly fishing and horseback riding readily available. With a one billion dollar transformation underway, the city of Steamboat Springs and surrounding area are attracting new developments, expanding services, and encouraging the preservation and promotion of the region’s history.

Throughout the communities and countryside surrounding Steamboat Lake you will find an exciting selection of vacation rentals, real estate properties, inns, resorts and lodges. A quick preview of the many choices guarantees that you will find accommodations to match your needs and desires. Come to Steamboat Lake and enjoy a “gold medal” experience with spectacular views, exciting outdoor adventures and unforgettable fishing.

Things to do at Steamboat Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Kayaking
  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • National Forest

Fish species found at Steamboat Lake

  • Brown Trout
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Trout

Steamboat Lake Photo Gallery

Steamboat Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation

Surface Area: 1,011 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 8,000 feet

Average Depth: 25 feet

Maximum Depth: 70 feet

Water Volume: 26,364 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1968

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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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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