Tucked away in the San Juan National Forest northeast of Durango, Colorado, the Lemon Reservoir is a beautiful, secluded alpine lake created by the Lemon Dam. The dam generates hydroelectricity as it impounds the Florida River.
The Lemon Dam was built in 1963 for the purpose of storing water for irrigation. The reservoir and dam are named for the Lemon Ranch, which once stood where the reservoir is now located in La Plata County. All in all, the Lemon Reservoir takes up about 622 acres of surface area in the Weminuche Wilderness, which is approximately 3 miles long by a half of a mile wide.
Although it is smaller than its neighboring Vallecito Lake, the Lemon Reservoir still attracts its fair share of visitors to enjoy outdoor activities in and around the water.
Biking: From Durango, Colorado Road 250 & Florida Road combine to create a popular 26 mile out and back biking route to Lemon Reservoir. The roadway is almost fully paved (save for a short gravel climb to the top) and offers steady, medium grades.
Birding: The dense surrounding forest and high elevation make the Lemon Reservoir a unique birding location. Among common waterfowl, visitors can spot bald eagles, grouse, loons, and more in and around the reservoir.
Boating: From the Miller Creek Campground, visitors can use the concrete ramp for non-motorized boats. Motorized boats are currently prohibited in an effort to stop invasive species. The high elevation, frequent winds, and low traffic make Lemon Reservoir popular for sailing and windsurfing.
Camping: There are three public campgrounds maintained by the National Forest Service near the Lemon Reservoir. Each requires an overnight fee.
- Miller Creek Campground is located on the eastern shore of the lake, with easy access to a concrete boat ramp. There are 12 sites with plenty of room for parking and water/toilet access from May to September.
- The Florida Campground sits above the north end of the reservoir.
- The Transfer Park Campground is one mile further north. Both the Florida and Transfer Park campgrounds are considered “low-use,” however they both offer large sites, picnic tables, and plenty of shade.
Fishing: A Colorado fishing license is required to fish in the Lemon Reservoir. Here, anglers have the chance of catching the stocked brown trout, rainbow trout, and Kokanee salmon. Fishing is most popular in the day-use area on the west side of the lake, or above the reservoir in the many alpine creeks and streams. Access to the reservoir remains open in the winter for ice fishing.
Hiking: There are a large number of hiking-only trails in the Lemon Reservoir area. Many of the trails are short and easy, leading to secluded alpine waterways with wildflowers and mountain vistas along the way. Trailheads can be found near each of the national forest campgrounds.
Hunting: Public hunting is permitted with a valid Colorado Hunting License near the Lemon Reservoir. Commonly, hunters can find healthy populations of bears, deer, elk, and turkeys within the dense surrounding forest.
Picnicking: Picnicking is popular in the day-use area near Miller Creek Campground on the east side of the Lemon Reservoir. There are picnic tables and restrooms available for a small day-use fee.
Rock Climbing: The Lemon Reservoir has one of the most scenic climbing areas in southwest Colorado with the “summer granite crag” towering directly over a river. The cliffs are easily accessible, just outside of the Transfer Park campground north of the reservoir.
Wildlife Viewing: The dense and isolated forests of the San Juan National Forest provide a healthy habitat for wildlife to appear around the Lemon Reservoir. In the area, campers often spot mule deer, bear, fox, and more.
Address: 2680 County Rd 243, Durango, CO 81301
Fees: Entrance | Camping
Map: Durango Area Map (JPG)
Website: usbr.gov…[sc name=”ad-activity-bottom”]