Located between Gunnison and Montrose in Western Colorado, the Curecanti National Recreation Area contains over 43,000 acres of land, three reservoirs, plenty of backcountry exploring, and multiple developed campgrounds.
A variety of activities can be enjoyed here, including fishing, hunting, boating, and hiking. Gorgeous open vistas and canyonlands along the Gunnison River show off the beauty of Colorado’s high mesa country. Some facilities include horse corrals for equestrian visitors.
Blue Mesa Reservoir is the largest body of water in Colorado holding 940,800 acre-feet of water within its 96 miles of shoreline. Much of the shoreline is not accessible by road, providing plenty of private fishing space.
The Blue Mesa dam was the first to be built in 1966 as a hydroelectric power source. Boat launches are available at Riverway, Stevens Creek, Iola, Elk Creek, Lake Fork, and Ponderosa. Because of the altitude and deep water of the reservoirs, the water temperature tends to be on the cool side, so water sports like windsurfing or water skiing may warrant using wetsuits.
Morrow Point Reservoir was also built for hydroelectric power in 1968. It contains 117,190 acre-feet of water and is located just west of the Blue Mesa Dam. Morrow Point is narrow with steep canyon sides, quite different than the open waters of Blue Mesa Reservoir.
National Park Service rangers offer an informative boat tour on Morrow Point that is a highlight for visitors to Curecanti. The boat tour visits beautiful waterfalls, has wildlife viewing opportunities, and explores the geologic and archeological history of the Curecanti area. Reservations are required.
Crystal Reservoir is a remote body of water deep in Cimarron Canyon just before the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Much smaller than the other two reservoirs, Crystal Reservoir is only accessible by a trail from the north side of the Recreation Area and offers serenity of the remote wilderness.
The dramatic pinnacles visible from much of the area are testament to the volcanic activity 30 million years ago that formed much of the geologic history of Curecanti. Large fault systems and erosion have worked the landscape over the millennia to what it is today.
The Curecanti Needle on the south shore of the Morrow Point Reservoir rises over 700 feet from the surrounding terrain and has been a notable landmark for travelers throughout US history.
There is a rich archeological presence at Curecanti, with cultural sites dating back 6,000 years. Additionally, there have been recent fossil discoveries within the rocks at Blue Mesa Reservoir.
Curecanti Recreation Area is the gateway to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, which is located about an hour west.