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McPhee Reservoir

McPhee Reservoir is a huge lake formed by a dam on the Dolores River in southwest Colorado. The ten-mile-long lake, with 50 miles of shoreline, has a surface area of 4,470 acres when it’s full, making it the second largest reservoir in the state. The lake water is used for irrigation in Montezuma Valley. The long, narrow lake tucks into the river canyon, making access difficult and giving boaters a private experience. McPhee Recreation Complex, on the lake’s southwest shore, and Horse Creek Recreation Complex on the east side are popular spots for boating, water skiing, fishing, hiking, and camping. The area is also rich in archeological sites, with many excavated before the lake filled in the early 1970s. Stop by the BLM’s Anasazi Heritage Center for displays and ruins.

Pro Tips

  • McPhee Campground at McPhee Recreation Area offers 71 campsites on two loops, with 24 electric hookup sites, two handicap-accessible sites, and 12 walk-in tent sites. Nearby are four group campsites, a ball field, horseshoe pits, and volleyball courts. Sites are both first-come first-served and by reservation at or by calling 877-444-6777.
  • The House Creek Recreation Complex is on the east side of the lake. It offers a 65-site campground with electrical hookups, handicap-accessible sites, tent sites, and group sites. Sites are both first-come first-served and by reservation at or by calling 877-444-6777. There’s also a boat ramp, group picnic site, dump station, and play area.
  • McPhee Reservoir is a popular lake for fishing, with anglers catching large- and small-mouth bass, trout, crappie, northern pike, perch, and kokanee salmon. A ramp at the recreation area allows boat access. Several undeveloped fishing access points are at Big Bend, Dolores, Sage Hen, and Dry Canyon. Variable fishing is at the tailwater below the dam, depending on water releases. The 12 miles below the dam is catch-and-release and fishing is limited to artificial flies and lures.
  • The Anazasi Heritage Center on the lake’s south shore interprets the prehistory and Native American cultures of southwest Colorado. The museum has exhibits about archeology and local history. Also explore Dominguez and Escalante Pueblos, two sites accessed by a handicap-accessible trail. Call 970‐882‐5600 for info.

 Recommended season(s): Year-round.

Stewart M. Green

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