Within Waterton Canyon south of Littleton, Colorado, the Strontia Springs Reservoir is a 7,863 acre-feet man-made lake in which roughly 80% of Denver’s water passes. To reach the 98 surface-acre reservoir, visitors most commonly travel 6.5 miles by foot, bike, or horse to the dam along the Waterton Trail.
The 200-foot Strontia Springs Dam was completed in 1983, creating the Strontia Springs Reservoir at an elevation of 6,002 feet. The man-made lake diverts water from the South Platte River to the Foothills Water Treatment Plant.
Decades of increased water demand in the greater Denver area have limited the ability of the Strontia Springs Reservoir to reach its capacity. However, during the summer of 2019, excess water spilled from the dam for the first time in four years.
Activities at Strontia Springs Reservoir
Just before reaching the Strontia Springs Reservoir along the Waterton Trail, the Bighorn Sheep Rest Area has bathrooms, a picnic area, and a bike rack. At the reservoir, travelers are welcomed with breathtaking views and opportunities for fishing and wildlife viewing.
Biking: Up until the reservoir, the path is paved and well-maintained, suitable for road bikes. If you are planning to travel beyond the Reservoir, a mountain bike is required. Currently, e-bikes are not permitted in Waterton Canyon, although this may change in the future.
Birding: There are over 40 species of birds that have been spotted in Waterton Canyon and around the Strontia Springs Reservoir. Among them, herons, warblers, flycatchers, owls, buntings, wrens, and more are known to frequent the area.
Boating: Boating is prohibited on the Strontia Springs Reservoir, as well as on the river flowing two and from the dam.
Camping: Camping is prohibited at the Strontia Springs Reservoir. However, south of the water along the Colorado Trail, dispersed, primitive camping is permitted in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests.
Fishing: Fishing is permitted at the Strontia Springs Reservoir, although the steep shorelines can make access can be quite challenging. A valid Colorado fishing license is required, and fishing from the dam is strictly prohibited.
As an alternative to the Waterton Trail, many anglers choose to hike the more challenging Bear Creek Trail to the reservoir. This offers stream fishing along the way. Most commonly the area is good for several species of trout and perch.
Hiking: As noted above, a 6.5 mile hike is required to reach the Strontia Springs Reservoir. Despite its length, the trail is mostly paved with gentle elevation gains. From the reservoir, hikers can continue into Roxborough State Park or along The Colorado Trail towards Durango.
Horseback Riding: Horseback riding is permitted in Waterton Canyon near the Strontia Springs Reservoir. Although access to the reservoir is limited via horseback, the trail system extends to Durango via the Colorado Trail as well as the object Chatfield State Park and Indian Creek trail systems.
Hunting: A limited amount of licenses for the Strontia Springs Reservoir area are given to hunters each year. Both firearms and archery are permitted in open season, with hunting limited to National Forest Service Land. Hunters must pass through private and Denver Water property to reach the designated hunting areas.
Picnicking: Although there are no facilities along the shores of the Strontia Springs Reservoir, there are many picnic tables and shaded areas along the way for visitors to stop and enjoy.
Swimming: Swimming and wading are prohibited in the Strontia Springs Reservoir as body contact with the water is against Denver Water’s regulations.
Wildlife Viewing: The hike to Strontia Springs Reservoir is famous for ample bighorn sheep viewing opportunities. For this reason, dogs are not permitted on the trail. Beyond the sheep, mule deer, black bears, moose and small wildlife such as foxes, chipmunks, snakes, and squirrels can be spotted.
Address: 10401 Waterton Rd, Littleton, CO 80125
Hours: Open daily from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset
Maps: Denver Canyon Recreation Map (PDF)
Camping Information: Pike and San Isabel National Forest, Colorado Trail Segment #1