Curecanti National Recreation Area was established in 1965 with the completion of Blue Mesa Dam, which creates the largest body of water in Colorado, Blue Mesa Reservoir. Most visitors to the park are surprised and impressed by Blue Mesa Reservoir, but do not realize there are actually three large dams and reservoirs in the park.
These three dams make up what is called 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 Navajo Dam in New Mexico, Flaming Gorge Dam in Utah, and Glen Canyon Dam in 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. There is no question the dams have altered the natural environment. Because of the dams, once agriculturally useless land is now fertile. Forty miles of a once wild, prize-fishing river is impounded. The effects can be judged both positive and negative.