Crawford State Park lies in the shadow of the West Elk Wilderness Area in western Colorado. Ragged peaks crowd the park’s horizon, including 800-foot-high Needle Rock. The quiet and remote 734-acre park centers on a 400-acre lake with boat ramps and a swimming beach. Locals visit for water skiing, motor boating, hiking on three trails, camping at two campgrounds with 60 sites, and the inspiring scenery. Fishermen know the lake for its excellent perch and crappie fishing; others toss a hook for largemouth bass, yellow perch, northern pike, and channel catfish. Hardy winter recreationists pursue ice fishing and skating when the lake’s ice is six inches thick or go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Part of Clear Fork Campground is open for winter camping.
- The park makes a good base camp for visiting the North Rim of nearby Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and enjoying the peaceful ambience of this forgotten bit of Colorado. The historic town of Crawford, a mile north of the park, offers bed-and-breakfast inns, a motel, and restaurants.
- Crawford State Park is a great wildlife viewing area, with deer and elk migrating between summer and winter pastures. Also keep your eyes peeled for black bear, turkey, bobcat, hawks, eagles, and the Gunnison sage grouse.
- Bring binoculars for bird watching. Waterfowl collect on the lake, including killdeer along the shoreline, Canada geese in the south marsh, and great blue herons in shallow water.
- Planning a family reunion? Crawford’s group picnic area entertains as many as 100 people at a swim beach with outdoor shower and tables for the feast. Make a reservation through the park office at 970-921-5721.
Recommended season: Year-round. Summer and fall are the best seasons.
—Stewart M. Green