Blue Mesa Reservoir

Blue Mesa Reservoir is the largest body of water entirely in Colorado. Created by Blue Mesa Dam, Blue Mesa Reservoir is 20 miles long, has 96 miles of shoreline, and is the largest lake trout and Kokanee salmon fishery in the United States.  The Dam is 390 feet tall, The Blue Mesa Dam houses two turbine generators and produces an average of 264,329,000 kilowatt-hours each year and the start of the spectacular Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, the river below the dam creates Morrow Point Reservoir for 12 miles to its dam at 469 feet tall and then flows into Crystal Reservoir for 6 miles to its Dam 323 feet tall. The three reservoirs are set in the pristine beauty of the Rocky Mountains.  All three reservoirs, named for corresponding dams on the Gunnison River form the largest Kokanee Salmon fishery in the United States.  Marrow Point Reservoir is the beginning of the black Canyon and below, East Portal is the site of the Gunnison Diversion Tunnel, a National Historical Civil Engineering Landmark. 

The Blue Mesa Reservoir is bordered on the north side by the West Elk Wilderness Area with more than 175,000 acres in the Gunnison National Forest, This area provides world class hunting and fishing to say the least.  Blue Mesa Reservoir Dam is located 30 miles west of Gunnison and  30 miles east of Montrose, Colorado on US highway 50 where it meets co Hwy. 92 as it comes across the dam at the west end of the reservoir. Co Hwy. 92 travels east out of Delta through Hotchkis and Crawford then along the scenic north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and then across the Blue Mesa Reservoir Dam at the mouth of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.  Co Hwy. 149 marks the east end of the reservoir and then travels south through Powderhorn, Lake City and parts beyond.

The surrounding Gunnison Country offers the best of Colorado with truly outstanding and spectacular scenic areas. Black Canyon National Park is very close by with access from both the north and south rims. Just 25 miles north of Gunnison is the National Historic Town of Crested Butte. Over 70% of Gunnison County is National Forest which offers all sorts of great recreation, both summer and winter.  Blue Mesa Dam is a 390-foot-tall (120 m) zoned earth fill dam on the Gunnison River in Colorado. It creates Blue Mesa Reservoir, and is within Curecanti National Recreation Area just before the river enters the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The dam is upstream of the Morrow Point Dam. Blue Mesa Dam and reservoir are part of the Bureau of Reclamation's Wayne N. Aspinall Unit of the Colorado River Storage Project, which retains the waters of the Colorado River and its tributaries for agricultural and municipal use in the American Southwest.

The Curecanti Project (later renamed the Wayne N. Aspinall Project) was conceived in 1955, initially with four dams. It was approved by the Secretary of the Interior in 1959, comprising Blue Mesa Dam and Morrow Point Dam. Crystal Dam's design was unfinished and was approved in 1962. Plans for a fourth dam were dropped as uneconomical. The project was restricted to the stretch of the Gunnison above Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument (later designated a national park), a 40 miles (64 km) length of the river Initially planned as a concrete dam, the project was changed to an earth fill design.  Work on the dam started in 1961, with foundation drilling and survey work. Construction of the reservoir required the relocation of US 50 and Colorado State Highway 149. This relocation was among the first work to be performed, starting in 1962 and continuing through 1964. The Sapinero Cemetery was also relocated. The primary construction contract for the dam was awarded to the Tecon Corporation of Dallas, Texas, with notice to proceed on April 23, 1962. The diversion tunnel was holed through on September 7, 1962, with excavation of the spillway tunnel completed by the April 1963. Drilling and grouting for the dam's foundation started in March 1963. The Gunnison was diverted through its tunnel on October, with excavation of the foundation to bedrock immediately after. Placement of the dam embankments started in 1964, continuing through the year, with the dam embankment completed at the end of 1965. The diversion tunnel was partly closed in December and the reservoir began to fill, with final closure of the diversion tunnel on February 7, 1966. The dam project was declared complete on October 19, 1966.  The power plant project was delayed by a delivery accident to a transformer, which was damaged in an accident in September 1966 near Monarch Pass and had to be shipped back to its manufacturer in Sweden for repair. The power plant was completed on February 16, 1968.  Spillway modifications took place in 1984-85 to repair damage, while a uniform and largely cosmetic covering of riprap was applied to the dam face.

Curecanti National Recreation Area

Human occupation of the Curecanti area dates back to at least 10,000 years ago. Archeologists have uncovered the remains of ancient structures called wickiups that date back 4,500 years. Utes of historic times summered in the mountains and wintered near today's Montrose and Grand Junction. Like many of the area's earlier inhabitants, they were attracted here by the abundance of game in the dry hills and river valleys, and by the vegetation in the canyons and on the mesas. Fur traders and miners blazed the northern branch of the Old Spanish Trail from Santa Fe to Los Angeles. This trail first linked the Utes to Anglo and Spanish commerce. The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, bearing the Curecanti Needle on its logo, spurred development of small towns such as Iola, Cebolla, Sapinero and Cimarron. The railroad operated from 1882 to 1949. The region's farmers and ranchers soon coveted the Gunnison River's waters for their crops and livestock. The 6-mile Gunnison Tunnel was cut through a mesa to deliver the water to the Uncompagre Valley. In 1965, Blue Mesa Dam was completed, and the largest body of water in Colorado, Blue Mesa Reservoir, began to fill. Blue Mesa, Morrow Point and Crystal reservoirs are collectively called the Wayne N. Aspinall Storage Unit, and were created primarily to provide water storage to the Upper Colorado River Basin states of Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah. Curecanti National Recreation Area was established in 1965 to manage the land on and around the Aspinall Unit.

Black Canyon National Park

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison's unique and spectacular landscape was formed slowly by the action of water and rock scouring down through hard Proterozoic crystalline rock. No other canyon in North America combines the narrow opening, sheer walls, and startling depths offered by the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The canyon has been a mighty barrier to humans. Only its rims, never the gorge, show evidence of human occupation - not even by Ute Indians living in the area since written history began.

Gunnison National Forest

The Gunnison National Forest is a U.S. National Forest covering 1,672,136 acres (2,612.71 sq mi, or 6,766.89 km²) [1] in Mesa, Gunnison, Hinsdale and Saguache Counties in Western part of the U.S. state of Colorado. It borders the White River National Forest to the north, the Grand Mesa and Uncompahgre National Forests to the west, the San Isabel National Forest to the east and the Rio Grande National Forest to south. It lies in parts of five counties. In descending order of land area within the forest they are Gunnison, Saguache, Hinsdale, Delta, and Montrose counties.  It shares the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness with the White River and San Isabel National Forests, and the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area with the San Isabel National Forest. The forest was created by Theodore Roosevelt on June 13, 1905 as the Cochetopa Forest Reserve, and named after explorer John W. Gunnison. Today it is administered jointly with the Grand Mesa and Uncompahgre National Forests from offices in Delta. There are local ranger district offices located in Gunnison and Paonia.

Gunnison Colorado Whitewater Park

Located on the west side of Gunnison, Colorado. Built for recreational kayaking, rafting and canoeing, the Whitewater Park is also a popular spot for rafters and anglers who want to float on the Gunnison River.

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