Wayne N. Aspinall Storage Unit

Curecanti National Recreation Area was established in 1965 with the completion of Blue Mesa Dam, which created the largest body of water in Colorado, Blue Mesa Reservoir. Blue Mesa Reservoir, Morrow Point Reservoir, and Crystal Reservoir make up the Wayne N. Aspinall Storage Unit, named after the Colorado congressman instrumental in implementing the project.

The Aspinall Unit is one of the four main units of the Upper Colorado River Storage Project (UCRSP). The other large dams in this project include the Navajo Dam (New Mexico), Flaming Gorge Dam (Utah), and Glen Canyon Dam (Utah). The primary purpose of this project is to provide water storage to the Upper Colorado River Basin states of Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Utah.

The three dams in Curecanti each serve a specific purpose and work as a system to store water, produce electricity, and regulate water flow for downstream irrigation, flood control, and habitat mitigation. The creation of dams undoubtedly impacted the Gunnison River and surrounding landscapes; native desert and scrubland were repurposed for agricultural use and the river channel disappeared beneath a reservoir.

There are currently no tours offered for any of the three dams within Curecanti National Recreation Area.

A large earth and rock dam with spillways open into a narrow reservoir
Blue Mesa Dam spilling

NPS Photo/Troy Hunt

Blue Mesa Dam

Blue Mesa Dam is an earth fill embankment with a structural height of 390 feet, a crest length of 785 feet, and a volume of 3,080,000 cubic yards of materials. It was the first large dam built on the Gunnison River. Finished in 1965, Blue Mesa Dam created Blue Mesa Reservoir. Blue Mesa Reservoir is 20 miles long with 96 miles of shoreline. While Blue Mesa Dam does produce hydroelectricity, its primary purpose is water storage.

Blue Mesa Dam can be viewed from the Blue Mesa Dam Overlook on CO Highway 92, approximately 1 mile from the junction with U.S. Highway 50.
A large concrete dam with spillways open. People are standing at an overlook below it
Morrow Point Dam spilling

NPS Photo/Troy Hunt

Morrow Point Dam

Morrow Point Dam was completed in 1967 and lies 12 miles below Blue Mesa Dam. This dam created a deep, narrow reservoir between the steep walls of the Black Canyon. The dam is a concrete, double curvature, thin arch dam rising 469ft. high. It was the first dam of its type built by the Bureau of Reclamation. The primary function of Morrow Point Dam is the production of hydroelectricity. With two 83,000kw generators, its power capacity is 172,000kw - almost twice the power capacity of Blue Mesa Dam.

Morrow Point Dam can be viewed from the Mesa Creek Trailhead at Cimarron.
A concrete dam spilling water into a reservoir below. Steep canyon walls are around the dam structure
Crystal Dam spilling into the Gunnison River

NPS Photo

Crystal Dam

Crystal Dam was completed in 1976 and lies six miles below Morrow Point Dam. Like Morrow Point, Crystal Dam is a concrete, double curvature, thin arch dam. Approximately 2 miles below the dam is the eastern boundary of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park; the Gunnison River continues from there. The purpose of Crystal Dam is to stabilize and regulate the flow of water through the national park. Crystal Dam also produces some hydroelectricity as a secondary function.

Crystal Dam can be seen from the end of the East Portal Road.

Interested in learning more? Visit the Bureau of Reclamation website.

A blue reservoir with small boats on the horizon
Blue Mesa, Morrow Point, and Crystal

Curecanti has three reservoirs, each with their own character and water recreation opportunities.

A person stands on the edge of a boat on a reservoir. Brownish-green mesas are in the background.
Reservoir Levels

Check water level data for each reservoir from the Bureau of Reclamation.

Last updated: July 2, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

102 Elk Creek
Gunnison, CO 81230


970 641-2337 x205

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