Three boats on a large body of water with a marina in the background
Boats on Blue Mesa Reservoir

NPS/Victoria Stauffenberg

All three reservoirs within Curecanti have character of their own. They each provide a different type of boating experience.

Boating on Blue Mesa Reservoir

Blue Mesa Reservoir, the largest body of water in Colorado, has 96 miles of shoreline and provides opportunities for motorboating, paddleboarding, kayaking, canoeing, and more. Windsurfing is popular at several areas such as the Bay of Chickens or in the Iola Basin. Boaters can explore several arms of the reservoir which reach into secluded canyons. Waterskiers can practice their sport in the late months of summer when waters warm slightly.

All boaters on Blue Mesa Reservoir should be aware that strong afternoon winds and accompanying storms can cause hazardous conditions. Be smart and watch for threatening clouds. As soon as strong winds begin to blow, head for shore. Water temperatures remain cold through much of the season. Windsurfers and water skiers are advised to wear wet suits.

To protect against the introduction of invasive zebra and quagga mussels into the reservoir, inspection of motorized boats, sailboats, and trailered watercraft is required prior to launching. Inspections of other hand-powered vessels are encouraged but are not required. Hand-powered vessels may be launched without a fee.

2024 Boat Launch Fees

Permit fees are for each motorized watercraft vessel.

  • Seasonal permit: $40
  • 7-day permit: $20

Note: Senior and Access passes provide a 50% discount on boat launch permits. Please note that other passes (Interagency Annual Pass, Military Pass, etc) do not provide a discount for boat launch passes or other expanded amenities.

Boat launch fees may be paid in one of these ways:

  • Seasonal and 7-day permits are available online through On the website, search for “Curecanti Boat.” All seasonal permits MUST be purchased online through
  • Don’t have cell service? For 7-day permits, fees may also be paid by submitting payment in the fee envelopes provided at the self-service fee stations at all Blue Mesa boat ramps (Iola, Stevens Creek, Elk Creek, or Lake Fork). Please fill out the information on the envelopes, include payment, remove the stub receipt, and deposit the payment envelope into the fee receptacle at the self-service station.

Show your envelope stub to an Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) ranger for the 7-day permit, or show your proof of online payment through to obtain a seasonal permit.

Boat launch fees at Curecanti increased on January 1, 2024. Read here for more details.

Chipeta Falls along Morrow Point
Chipeta Falls along Morrow Point Reservoir

NPS/Matt Johnson

Morrow Point Reservoir

For the more adventurous and hearty, Morrow Point provides a fabulous canoeing or kayaking trip. The adventure begins with hauling your boat and gear into the canyon. The easiest access to the reservoir is via the Pine Creek Trail. This trail consists of approximately 232 steps into the canyon. From the bottom of the stairs, the trail follows the reservoir for about a mile. You can put your boat in a short distance past the end of the stairs.

Morrow Point Reservoir is twelve miles long. The first half-mile of water is swift, but then becomes calm and still. Be aware that fluctuating water levels and releases from Blue Mesa Dam can suddenly create very challenging boating conditions. There are boat-in/backcountry campsites for overnight trips. At the end of your trip, head back to the Pine Creek Trail to exit the canyon. The current may make it difficult to paddle back to the base of the stairs, so plan accordingly.

Backcountry Use Permits

Boaters on Morrow Point Reservoir are required to fill out a free backcountry use permit. Permits are available at the Pine Creek trailhead.

Crystal Reservoir
Crystal Reservoir at Cimarron

NPS/Lisa Lynch

Crystal Reservoir

Like Morrow Point Reservoir, boating on Crystal Reservoir is limited to hand-carried craft. The access trail for Crystal Reservoir is reached via the Mesa Creek Trail located near Cimarron.

Fluctuating water levels and releases from Morrow Point Dam can create navigational problems. Tricky currents, protruding rocks, and backwashes caused by water rushing over submerged rocks, can overturn the inattentive boater. In addition, conditions along the river section on Crystal can change drastically during the course of a day.

Heavy spring runoff from Cimarron River and Mesa Creek can further complicate matters. Before launching, be sure to assess the capabilities of your equipment and the condition of the water.

Reservoir Levels

A reservoir with waves on a shore
Blue Mesa Reservoir

Check reservoir levels and water data from the Bureau of Reclamation.

A narrow reservoir flowing between two canyon walls
Morrow Point Reservoir

Check reservoir levels and water data from the Bureau of Reclamation.

A reservoir between tall canyon walls with steep cliffs
Crystal Reservoir

Check reservoir levels and water data from the Bureau of Reclamation


Boating Checklist

Be prepared for changing weather conditions, reservoir levels, and cold water temperatures. Review the safety checklist before your boating trip.

  • Personal flotation devices (PFDs) of correct size and type for all passengers. PFDs are required for children under the age of 13 unless the child is below deck or in an enclosed cabin.
  • Paddle or oar ready for use
  • Bail bucket
  • Tools for minor repairs
  • Warm clothing in case of weather changes
  • Anchor and line
  • Remember, rangers are glad to inspect your boat for necessary items.
  • Operators of motorized vessels on Colorado waters must be at least 16 years of age. Persons 14-16 years of age may operate a motorized vessel if they have completed a boating safety course accepted by Colorado State Parks and have certification of course completion in their possession.
  • All craft must travel wakeless in the designated no wake buoy areas.

Safety First

  • Always wear your PFD.
  • Don't overload, stay within capacity limits of your craft.
  • Don't stand up in the boat.
  • If you have trouble maneuvering in the current, lighten your load.
  • Avoid getting sideways in the current.
  • On river sections, don't hesitate to portage.
  • Tie down loose items and secure your motor to your boat.

Please consult the current Colorado Boating Statutes & Regulations for details.

For Emergencies

Report all accidents to a park ranger. Contact a staff member at either the Elk Creek Visitor Center or any Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) boat inspection station.

Emergency phone number: 911

Last updated: May 18, 2024

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

102 Elk Creek
Gunnison, CO 81230


970 641-2337 x205

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