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At 26 mi long, Blue Mesa Reservoir ranks as Colorado's largest body of water. Created in the mid-1960s when the state dammed the Gunnison River in three places, the lake is some 7,500 feet above sea level. It has become a mecca for water-sports enthusiasts. Anglers are drawn by the 3 million stocked rainbow, lake, brown, and brook trout and kokanee salmon.
In addition to the Cimarron Visitor Center at Curecanti National Recreation Area, there are smaller seasonal ranger stations at Lake Fork, Cimarron, and East Portal. If you have your own boat, you can use the ramps at Ponderosa (northern end at Soap Creek Arm), Stevens Creek (eastern end of the north shore), and Lola (eastern end on the south shore). A two-day boat permit is $4, and a two-week permit is $10. Annual boat permits run $30.
Elk Creek Marina. About 16 miles west of Gunnison, this marina on Blue Mesa Reservoir offers a range of services: boat and slip rentals, gas, ice, bait, and supplies. A small restaurant, Pappy's, is located above the dock, where you can enjoy a light meal while watching anglers try their luck. 24830 U.S. 50, Gunnison, CO, 81230. 970/641–0707. www.thebluemesa.com. Closed Oct.–Apr.
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