Colorado’s largest body of water offers great fishing, plus lakeside and boat-in camping.
In the high mountain desert between Gunnison and Montrose, Blue Mesa Reservoir is the largest body of water in Colorado. Part of the Curecanti National Recreation Area, the 29-mile-long reservoir offers 96 miles of shoreline surrounded by canyons and mesas. Stocked with fish and home to the largest kokanee salmon hatchery in the country, the fishing is legendary. Visitors also come to go boating, paddling, windsurfing, and swimming, as well as hiking, biking, horseback riding, and wildlife spotting. Campers can choose from more than 10 lakeside and boat-in campgrounds around the reservoir, with many more options available elsewhere in Curecanti National Recreation Area and Gunnison National Forest nearby.
At the western end of the reservoir is the Sapinero Basin, with three arms branching off north and south, and four campgrounds. The largest campground in the area, Lake Fork, offers 90 tent and RV sites, along with a marina and an information center. The Ponderosa campground can be found along the Soap Creek Arm while the West Elk Creek boat-in campground can be found along the West Elk arm.
Centrally located, the Cebolla Basin is home to the Dillon Pinnacles and Elk Creek Campground, offering 160 sites for tents and large RVs, with fire rings and picnic tables. It’s also the only campground with electric hookups. Near the Elk Creek Visitor Center are a boat ramp, fish cleaning station, and a seasonal marina and restaurant. The basin is also home to the Red Creek, Dry Creek, and East Elk Creek Group Campground, plus the Cebolla Creek boat-in campground.
On the eastern end of the reservoir, the Iola Basin is home to the Stevens Creek Campground, with 53 tent and RV sites. The Turtle Rock boat-in campground can also be found in this area, along with several picnic areas, two boat launches, and the Lake City Bridge.
To the west of Blue Mesa are two other lakes that form part of the Curecanti National Recreation Area—Morrow Point Lake and Crystal Lake. Just west of Blue Mesa, Morrow Point offers two boat-in campgrounds at Curecanti Creek and Hermits Rest. Further west, Crystal Lake offers one boat-in campground and two developed campgrounds for tents and RVs, including East Portal, at the far western end of Curecanti National Recreation Area and just below Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
To the northwest of Blue Mesa River is the Gunnison National Forest, spanning more than 1.6 million acres. In addition to plenty of space for dispersed backcountry camping, there are more than 30 developed backgrounds that offer tent sites, RV sites, and cabins. The closest developed campgrounds to Blue Mesa Reservoir include Soap Creek Campground, with 21 campsites, Lake Irwin Campground, with 25 campsites, and the Lost Lake Campground-Paionia, with 18 campsites.