Willow Creek Reservoir, Colorado, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Colorado - Northwest -

A vital link in the chain of water projects that irrigate Colorado’s Eastern Slope, Willow Creek Reservoir is less-known and less crowded than many nearby larger reservoirs. As a part of the massive Colorado-Big Thompson Project, Willow Creek Reservoir is actually on the Western Slope in the Northwest Region of the state with water being transferred across the Continental Divide by a series of pipes, canals, flumes and pumps. Willow Creek Dam doesn’t generate hydroelectric power as do many of the reservoirs. Instead, the dam pool stores spring snow melt and impounds the water from Willow Creek to supply Lake Granby Reservoir to the east. Relatively shallow at a maximum of 53 feet, Willow Creek Reservoir serves as a recreational destination to the western slope. Although the dam is owned by the Bureau of Reclamation, the entire reservoir shoreline lies within Arapaho National Recreation Area (ANRA), assuring a wealth of recreational opportunities for lucky visitors.

Although much of the north shore of Willow Creek Reservoir abuts the surrounding mountains, the southern shoreline is far more accessible. Three camping areas provided by the forest service offer rustic camping along the shore among the trees. Accommodating RVs to 40 feet, the campsites all contain a picnic table, fire grate, cooler platform, lantern hooks, and a food locker. The food lockers are provided as protection from bears that frequent the area and must be used by all campers. A boat launch site is located near the dam at the east end of the lake, along with a picnic area. To the delight of bird watchers, an osprey nesting platform is provided near the camping area and often offers the chance to see these raptors fishing in the shallow waters. Fishermen enjoy catching cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, brook trout, suckers and kokanee; all but the suckers are regularly stocked. Boat speed on Willow Creek Reservoir is slow or no-wake, limiting the numbers of power boats and water sports engaged in here. The quiet waters encourage canoes, kayaks and float-tubes for fishing and shore fishing. An ANRA pass is required but also covers all ANRA locations in the area, including those at Grand Lake and Lake Granby.

As with many Colorado reservoirs, most boats must be inspected to prevent the introduction of invasive species. Unfortunately, no inspection program is 100% effective, resulting in evidence of quagga mussels in the lake in recent years. For this reason, Willow Creek Reservoir is closed to larger boats and trailers for the 2012 season, although smaller, hand-launched craft can still be used. This limitation likely will not impact camping and fishing negatively, because the option for shore fishing is always open. Willow Creek Campground attracts solitude lovers who wish to camp among spruce and lodgepole pine, wake to nature’s music and admire west slope wildlife. Although there are no organized trails within the campground itself, the Arapahoe National Recreational Area holds a number of trails nearby, some of which connect to trails within the Rocky Mountain National Park. Favorites in the recreation area are the nine-mile East Shore Trail which is part of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail and is open to horseback riding. The Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest and Pawnee National Grasslands Visitors Guide offers more specific information on activities available in nearby areas.

Willow Creek Reservoir water levels stay relatively stable during most of the year, as there is no direct withdrawal for irrigation. Water levels are lowered in winter in anticipation of spring run-off within the 134-square mile drainage area. The reservoir contributes needed water to Lake Granby in a unique system of pumps: the Willow Creek Pumping Station pumps water 175 feet up to the Willow Creek Supply Canal, where it flows 1/4 mile by gravity to Lake Granby, a much larger reservoir. The entire Colorado-Big Thompson Project consists of 10 reservoirs and 13 dams, along with many smaller water structures. Willow Creek Reservoir shares this area of the system with Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain Lake and Grand Lake. All hold recreational facilities on their shorelines and are popular for fishing both summer and winter.

The nearby mountain town of Granby has hosted mountain visitors since its founding in 1905 but has seen rapid growth in the last few years. Sports enthusiasts have increasingly come to the West Slope in search of hiking, mountain biking, boating, horseback riding, hunting, river rafting and lake fishing. Because Granby is on the road between Winter Park and Grand Lake, the town has increasingly become a destination in itself for skiing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, and snowshoeing in winter. Not content to rest on its reputation as a gateway to Willow Creek Reservoir and Lake Granby, the town of Granby offers a number of golf courses, scheduled music festivals and rodeos, and even a family-friendly ski venue just outside of town.

The town of Grand Lake is another location to find services and recreation near Willow Creek Reservoir. Only 15 miles to the northeast, Grand Lake functions as the west entry to Rocky Mountain National Park and provides all necessary amenities, along with a variety of recreational opportunities. The area surrounding the two towns holds a number of guest ranches, bed-and-breakfasts, private rentals and more formal lodgings. With Denver only 100 miles away, the area around Willow Creek Reservoir is the ideal weekend getaway, utilizing either the many public and private campgrounds in the area or more luxurious ski accommodations. Increasingly popular as a location for a vacation home, real estate may be hard to find immediately. Those who truly desire to live surrounded by national forests and majestic mountain views amid rushing creeks will eventually find just the right property at a reasonable price. One visit to Willow Creek Reservoir will convince you: you were born to be a mountain lakelubber . . at least on weekends. Hope to see you soon!

Things to do at Willow Creek Reservoir

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Tubing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Snowmobiling
  • Dog Sledding
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park
  • National Forest

Fish species found at Willow Creek Reservoir

  • Brook Trout
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Kokanee Salmon
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Sucker
  • Trout

Willow Creek Reservoir Photo Gallery

Willow Creek Reservoir Statistics & Helpful Links

divider

Spread the word! Share our Willow Creek Reservoir article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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."


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.