Sailboat and sunset in Cebolla Basin and Blue Mesa.
Sailboat and sunset in Cebolla Basin and Blue Mesa.

NPS image by Matt Johnson

Each of the three reservoirs within Curecanti has a character all its own. They each provide a different type of boating experience.

Before launching, please visit the watercraft inspection page to see where your type of watercraft can launch and if it requires an inspection for aquatic invasive species.

Hidden and unmarked obstacles exist due to fluctuating water levels. Stay safe by being prepared and using the appropriate equipment.

Click here to learn more about how the National Park Service is adapting its operations and facilities to manage for the effects of climate change, such as fluctuating reservoir levels.


Twenty mile long Blue Mesa has 96 miles of shoreline and provides many 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 near the Lake City Bridge. Boaters can explore several arms of the reservoir which reach into secluded canyons. Water skiers can practice their sport in the late months of summer, July and August, when waters warm slightly.
Elk Creek marina
Elk Creek Marina slips.

NPS image by Matt Johnson

All boaters on Blue Mesa should be aware that strong afternoon winds often accompanied by 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.

Blue Mesa facts and data

Fees on Blue Mesa - All motorized vessels on Blue Mesa are required to have a boat permit (half-price for those with the interagency senior or access pass).

  • $30 for an annual permit
  • $10 for a two week permit
  • $4 for a two day permit

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

Chipeta Falls along Morrow Point
Chipeta Falls along Morrow Point

NPS image by Matt Johnson


For the more adventurous and hearty, Morrow Point provides a fabulous canoeing or sea-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 in the canyon, so you can make this an overnight outing. 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, but you can easily make it to the bottom of the stairs via the foot trail. Now comes the hard part, hauling your boat and gear back up the stairs!

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

Morrow Point data and flow

Crystal Reservoir
Crystal Reservoir at Cimarron.

NPS image by Lisa Lynch


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 and Mesa Creeks can further complicate matters. Before launching, be sure to assess the capabilities of your equipment and the condition of the water.

Crystal Reservoir data and flow


Warning: Reservoir levels change without warning! Be prepared for quickly changing weather conditions, and very cold water temperatures!

There are few, if any, passing boats on Morrow Point and Crystal Reservoirs to assist in an emergency, so wear your personal flotation device (PFD) at all times!


  • Personal flotation devices (PFD's) of correct size and type for all passengers. PFD's 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.


  • 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.


Report all accidents to a park ranger. Visitor contact stations are located at Elk Creek and Cimarron.

Emergency phone number: 911

Last updated: December 8, 2023

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102 Elk Creek
Gunnison, CO 81230


970 641-2337 x205

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