Nestled in the foothills of the San Juan mountains in Southwestern Colorado is Ridgway State Park and Ridgway Reservoir. While kayaking this body of water, one enjoys beautiful vistas in all directions. The water color can be deep blue to turquoise, depending on the time of day, the time of year and where one is kayaking on the reservoir. When the wind is up there are waves, when the wind is down there are reflections. It is always different, ever changing, and worth the trip to experience the allure of Ridgway Reservoir.

There are three entrances to Ridgway State Park.  Pa-co-chu-puk at the north, below the reservoir. Dutch Charlie, the main entrance with marina access and Dallas Creek on the Southern end, closest to the town of Ridgway. Dutch Charlie marina and Dallas Creek, aka ‘South Beach’, offer two respectable areas to launch a kayak, depending on the time of year. The marina at Dutch Charlie is closed during the winter months.  Dallas Creek is open year round, although the gates at the parking lot may be closed for several weeks during the summer months due to high water.  Kayak wheels are definitely recommended during this time. When the Dallas Creek gates are open, drive and launch where there is gravel and avoid the mud at all costs.  Ridgway mud is infamous.

The Uncompaghre River and Dallas Creek both flow into the reservoir on the south end, the closest access being the Dallas Creek launch. During the late spring, summer and early fall the estuary is navigable and thoroughly worth the trip. Eagles, heron, geese, ducks, osprey and various other water birds can frequently be seen on any given day.  The estuary is fairly shallow and most motor boats avoid the area, a definite plus for those seeking a quiet kayaking experience. The estuary can be accessed from the Dutch Charlie marina, however the closest access is definitely the Dallas Creek entrance.

Dutch Charlie marina offers the closest access to the dam and north end of the reservoir. This is a ramp launch and the ramp is long and steep. It is necessary to back down, unload, drive up to the parking area and walk back down the ramp……and then reverse the process when loading up. This can be a workout in and of itself.  The marina launch can get busy during the summer months when  motor and sail boats are launching.  The view from the dam is stunning and the fishing excellent. Fishing at the reservoir is year round, Colorado fishing license required.

As with most bodies of water, the conditions are dependent upon the weather. The water is always changing and rarely the same from one day to the next.  Some days the water is like glass, some days the wind just comes out of nowhere, some days it rains or snows, some days the estuary is iced up and some days everything is sunny and perfect. It is always prudent to check the weather, wind speed/direction before going on the water.  During the summer months, dawn and dusk are usually when the water is the calmest.

The amount of water in the reservoir is also variable. The water level is dependent upon the predicted snow melt, combined with the usage needed for irrigation in the Uncompaghre valley. There is always enough water for a great kayak, just sometimes less water than others.

There is a day fee to enter the Park of $8.00. All three entrances to the Park have self-pay stations. The Ridgway State Park Visitors Center is about a quarter mile up the Dutch Charlie entrance road where a yearly park pass can be purchased for $70.00.  This pass is valid for all Colorado State Parks for one year from the month of purchase.

Ridgway Boating Rules and Regulations April 23, 2012

Ridgway Boating Rules and Regulations April 23, 2012


Kayaks and canoes do not need to be registered, however they must be identified with the owner’s name and address legibly marked somewhere in or on the vessel. Some Colorado boating regulations do apply to kayaks/canoes and can be accessed at: Boating Rules and Regulations. Click the image on the right to view the Dallas Creek Launch regulations.

For more complete information about the Park, the following site is highly recommended: Ridgway State Park

For a brief overview, visit: Ridgway State Park on Wikipedia

Please……if you pack it in, pack it out.  Thank you.