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General Information

Turquoise Lake from Belle of Colorado Campground
Copyright: Zander Higbie-Interactive Outdoors, Inc.
Turquoise Lake from Belle of Colorado Campground
Description - This 1,800 acre reservoir west of Leadville was named for the semiprecious stone that was mined in the surrounding area. Most of the mining activity took place in the 1930's when two Navaho Indians discovered nearly a thousand pounds of rough material in the area. Today, much of the area outside the lake is privately owned, so please be respectful of their rights.

Turquoise Lake plays an important part in the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. Authorized in 1962, the project consisted of the expansion of the original diversion of the Fryingpan River through the old Buck-Ivanhoe Tunnel after the abandonment of the Colorado Midland Railroad. The project provides water to the residents east of the Rockies and power to all of Colorado, as the water is pumped through the Mount Elbert Power Plant at Twin Lakes.

Today the expanded Turquoise Lake serves as one of the most popular recreation areas in Lake County.

Attractions - Recreation facilities consist of eight campgrounds, accommodating 300 campsites and two boat-launching ramps. The surface of the lake available for recreation includes 780 acres. Fish species available include mackinaw trout, rainbow trout, and brook trout. Facilities closed in winter due to ice and snow.

Recreation - Primary recreation activities at Turquoise Lake include camping, fishing, picnicking and water sports.

Climate - Turquoise Lake sits at around 10,000 feet elevation so therefore experiences cold winters and cool summers. Although summer days can reach 80 degrees, the nights frequently dip into the 30's or cooler. Afternoon thunderstorms are common from mid-June through mid-September. Sunny days are common all winter but temperatures can be very cold and heavy snow is possible.

Location - Turquiose Lake is located just west of the town of Leadville on the Pike and San Isabel National Forest. To reach the lake from Harrison Street in Leadville, turn on to West Sixth Street to County Road 4. Make a right on to County Road 4 at the "T" and drive to County Road 9 and the Sugarloaf Dam Site. County Road 9 circles Turquoise Lake.


Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Trip Reports:
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Filed By: Russ Dale (Denver, CO)
Number of People Encountered: 50+ ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: My first camping expedition in 11 years was this past weekend. I headed to Turquoise Lake, a 1,800-acre reservoir west of Leadville, Colorado at approximately 10,000 feet in altitude. It was named for the semiprecious stone that was mined in the surrounding area. It is beautiful wilderness with fresh pine scent in the clean air, cool breezes and nature galore. Bug repellent is a most precious companion. I battled a bear with my bare hands (not really). I camped at the Tabor Campground and was lucky to find a spot because there were campers and RVs everywhere. It must have been summertime in Colorado. Luckily I scored spot number 7. As the Colorado dog days of summer were beating down on the Denver, it was 20 degrees cooler in the mountains. I didn’t even need blankets or sleeping bag in my tent. It was so nice to be away from the internet and cell phones and the din of city traffic. It was a delight to be away from barking dogs and emergency sirens and arguing neighbors. The Rocky Mountain high-country is a beautiful place. There was no city light pollution to reduce stargazing and the stars were striking with the Milky Way spreading across the heavens. I saw several meteors. I set up a telescope and gazed at what first thought was the planet Venus. It was quickly evident, however, when I saw it was really Jupiter and 4 of its moons. You could see faint white and red banding atmosphere of the mighty planet. It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen and it makes you realize how small you really are in the vast cosmos. Fish in Turquoise Lake includes Mackinaw trout, rainbow trout and brook trout. A gaggle of trout. I fished and fished and fished. I caught nothing. I fished around Tabor: nothing. I fished at sunset and at dawn: nothing. People to the left and right of me were catching fish. I heard jubilant cries of joy as even little kids, some in strollers, were reeling in the fish. The shouts of fish-catching pleasure echoing across the lake made me fish on with more fervor and determination. I fished at Abe Lee: nothing. I fished at May Queen: nothing. I performed a fish-catching ritual: nothing. I fished near Sugar Loaf Dam: nothing. I fished in surrounding streams: nothing. Not catching any fish did not deter me from fishing. I may currently be an “Angler of Failure,” but I don’t mind. When I do catch that first fish, it will be a sweet moment worth singing about and writing epic poems about. It was the vast expanse of the wild that made me happy. It was the miles of National Forest that made me contemplate my existence. It was being one with Mother Nature and The Great Spirit that made me at peace. Fire danger was low in the area. The campfire was a real treat, providing a smoky goodness to the surrounding ambience, another signal that I were camping. I cooked chicken, zucchini and corn-on-the-cob over the fire. I cooked coffee and breakfast burritos (potatoes, eggs, jalapenos, white onion, green peppers, mushrooms, garden-fresh tomatoes, center-cut bacon, cheddar cheese, tortilla) on a small camp stove. I made sammiches of corned beef and ham to take on fishing adventures. I had hot apple pie. I drank beer and scotch and partook in s'mores. There is nothing like the taste of roasted marshmallow and a slab of chocolate all sandwiched between two pieces of tasty graham cracker-delish! S’mores are a camping staple. The fresh air makes them taste better than other non-camping s’mores moments. August 10th was National S'mores Day. My iPod and portable speakers provided constant background music from jazz to classical to techno to oldies to tuvan throat chants to U2 to opera to country to disturbing staticy goodness to top 40. My camping expedition was a fulfilling amalgum of relaxtion, emlightenment, adventure, fun and, of course, the outdoors.

Filed By: Steve Jones (Allen Texas, Tx)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: I am writing this report primarily because I stummbled on it accidentally. My family and I used to to fish Turquoise lake every summer from 1959 through probably 1967. Just before the fryingpan project began. I have some pictures of this lake before the project and development. We happened on this place quite by accident in 1959.There was a Lodge and about 8 cabins if I recollect, a barn, corral and a couple of travel trailors. The place was run by a man and his wife named the Setliffs or Settler if I remember. Nice family and just wonderful people. His name was Burl and he actually showed my family how to fish for trout. To this day the cowbells and lures still work. Memories of those experiences and years as a kid are immeasurable. I drove by there once in 1974 and could hardly recognise the place. The water and development had wiped out most of the original landmarks I remember as a kid. One thing I do remember was the fishing was the best I had then or now ever experienced The scenery and fishing were then and in 1974 were breathtaking.. Haven't been back in 30 years but would like to go again.

Filed By: Brynn (Englewood, CO)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: BEAUTIFUL! The campground (The Belle of Colorado) was gorgeous and Turquoise Lake was absolutely breathtaking! The capsite was a little hard to find because there arent many signs to it on the way! Be sure to know EXACTLY where you are going. The rangers were a little tough if you are looking to have some fun. Just try to be quiet I guess! Other that that it was gorgeous and I highly recommend it!

Filed By: JW (Denver, CO)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: I camped at Turquoise Lake in the Molly Brown campsite. The sites are very well maintained. The host met me when I drove up and offered assistance and provided me with regional weather, fish, and wildlife information. The hosts, a couple from Texas were outstanding and regularily monitored the whole area. The latrine facilities were the cleanest I have seen and did not have that typical latrine smell, they didn't smell at all, very unusual. The fishing by the dam was great for Laker Trout I caught and released 11 Lake Trout on worms ranging from 17 to 29 inches. Half way between the dam and the northeast boat ramp I caught rainbow, and brown trout from about 11:00am till 6:00pm every day for 6 days. Sizes ranged from 11" to 16" and I caught twice the limit every day but one on worms. I only kept limit though so they are still there. I was there from May 29 through June 4. Had a great time and again cudos to the great job the hosts do there at Turquoise

Filed By: Jim (Aurora, CO)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Boating and fishing on the weekend of 6/15/02. Boat ramps are just in the water. Because lake is low, when the afternoon winds come up they create sand storms around the shores. Watch for rocks at the west end. Fishing good with worms or dead minnows. Fair trolling with your favorite lure.


More Information

Contact Information:
U.S. Forest Service, 2015 North Poplar , Leadville, CO, 80461, Phone: 719-486-0749

Additional Information:
Colorado Lakes & Reservoirs - The lakes and reservoirs included in this list range from small mountain lakes surrounded by snow capped peaks, to large reservoirs with beaches and boating facilities.
Leadville Area - Leadville began as a silver, gold and lead mining town in 1878. It boomed in the early 1880s, when many people became wealthy from the mining investments they made in the vicinity. The true bust of Leadville's mining days came in 1893 when the silver market crashed due to the repeal of the Sherman Silver Act.

Today Leadville's popularity grows with outdoor enthusiasts. The challenging terrain surrounding the mining center beckons hikers, bikers, runners, horseback riders, and cross-country and downhill skiers. Those who come to the area are rewarded with scenic vistas and unending recreation opportunities.
Leadville Ranger District - The Leadville Ranger District includes some of the most rugged terrain in the state of Colorado. Recreation opportunities abound in this region with access to everything from historic sites to rock climbing.

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