In Colorado’s Rio Grande National Forest, the Paltrova Reservoir is a remote manmade lake in Conejos County, south of Del Norte. Although it has a relatively short season, the Platoro Reservoir is popular for outdoor activities in a beautiful, isolated mountain setting.
The reservoir covers about 1.5 square miles (990 acres) of land. It sits behind the Platoro Dam, which is crested at 9,993 feet in elevation.
Platoro Reservoir History
Decades after the post office in the mining town of Platoro, Colorado closed, the Platoro Dam was completed in 1951 by the United States Bureau of Reclamation. The project was designed to dam the Conejos River as a part of southwest Colorado’s San Luis Valley Project for water storage. The Platoro Reservoir soon drew tourists to the area with resort style businesses giving rebirth to the near ghost town.
The word Platoro is derived from a combination of the Spanish “plata” and “oro,” meaning silver and gold.
Activities at Platoro Reservoir
The National Forest maintains a large number of facilities and recreational options on and around the Platoro Reservoir. Just north of the lake in the small town of Platoro, Colorado, there are a few options for lodging and food such as the Skyline Lodge, the Platoro Valley Lodge and Gold Pan Acres.
Biking: For mountain biking, many of the Rio Grande National Forest hiking trails are also accessible to non-motorized vehicles. Additionally, ATV, 4×4 and OHV trails are available in the area.
Birding: Although the Platoro Reservoir is not home to many waterfowl, the surrounding alpine wilderness gives birders the chance to spot unique species like the Boreal Owl.
Boating: There is a boat ramp located on the northwest side of the Platoro Reservoir. Large, small, motorized, and non-motorized boats are permitted on the lake.
Camping: There are three campgrounds maintained by the National Forest Service close to the Platoro Reservoir: the Lake Fork, Stunner, and Mix Lake campgrounds.
- Lake Fork Campground sites have toilets and drinking water, and require a fee to stay overnight. Campsites can be reserved via Recreation.gov.
- The Stunner Campground has five sites with fire rings and a vault toilet, but no potable water. Stunner campground is free of charge, but sites cannot be reserved.
- Mix Lake Campground is currently closed due to restoration from beetle damage in the area. When open, it ordinarily requires an overnight camping fee.
- Beyond the designated campgrounds, dispersed camping is permitted on the trails of the surrounding Rio Grande National Forest. Backpackers can camp anywhere away from developed sites for 14 days out of any 30 day period.
Fishing: A Colorado fishing license is required to fish in the Platoro Reservoir, which is well-stocked each year. Anglers have the chance to catch rainbow, brook, and brown trout as well as kokanee salmon. Fishing is very popular along the reservoir’s north shore, as well as in the Conejos River and other nearby tributaries.
Hiking: The Rio Grande National Forest maintains many great hiking trails to explore the high elevation wilderness surrounding the Platoro Reservoir. Access is relatively easy, with many trials beginning in the National Forest campgrounds. For longer journeys, there is a large network of trails that can be designed for overnight and multi day backpacking trips. There are parking areas and bathroom facilities near most of the major trailheads.
Horseback Riding: Horseback riding and camping are permitted on the Adams Fork and North Fork Conejos River Trail.
Hunting: Big game and small game hunting is available near the Platoro Reservoir. The area is popular for deer and elk hunting.
Picnicking: Picnic tables are available in the campgrounds surrounding Platoro Reservoir. Currently, the designated Mix Lake Observation Site is closed.
Swimming: Both swimming and scuba diving are permitted in the Platoro Reservoir. At nearly 10,000 feet in elevation, however, the water is quite cold and better suited for a quick dip than a long day in the water.
Address: Fr 250 Platoro, Del Norte, CO 81132
Season: Summer to Fall
Fees: Camping fees (no day use fees)
National Forest Cabin Rentals: