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One of the most interesting lake systems on Colorado's Front Range is Red Feather Lakes. The community's name is derived from a popular Native American concert singer's name, Princess Tsianina Redfeather, who studied in Denver and was known to some of the early residents. Located 40 miles northwest of Fort Collins, Colorado in northern Larimer County, the recreational destination came about as a result of efforts to assure water for irrigation. The lakes were already becoming a popular summer destination by the 1920s. Today, Red Feather Lakes offer four seasons of fun for residents and visitors alike.
Although popular for fishing, visitors come to the lakes for many reasons. The mountainous area is surrounded by Roosevelt National Forest and offers infinite opportunities for hiking, hunting, mountain biking, bird watching and nature observation. The immediate vicinity holds bear, antelope, moose, mule deer, mountain lions, elk, bighorn sheep, marmots, squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks and a variety of migratory birds, shorebirds and waterfowl. In wintertime, residents and visitors come for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and ice-fishing. Opportunities for canoeing and kayaking the Lone Pine Creek are likely as popular as whitewater rafting on the Cache La Poudre River nearby: the upper stretches of the Poudre are designated as Colorado's only Wild and Scenic River. One of Buddhism's greatest monuments in America, the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, is located west of Red Feather Lakes. Set against the background of the Rocky Mountains, a visit to the Red Feather Lakes area is a photographer's dream.
Local lore says none of the lakes are natural and that all have been the result of digging, damming and dikes to control and divert natural water sources and wetlands. Settlers first came to the area in the last quarter of the 1800s to mine and log timber for the railroad in southern Wyoming. The Red Feather Storage and Irrigation Company was formed in 1948 to purchase water rights and reservoirs no longer needed for local irrigation. The new Irrigation Company stabilized water levels to improve fishing and recreation. Property owners were given the right to utilize these lakes. Small cabins from the 1920s rub elbows with elaborate recent homes. Two recent housing developments have increased Red Feather Lakes' population: one development offers an 18-hole golf course, clubhouse, spa, driving range, tennis courts, hiking trails and a full complement of amenities, including use of the lakes, within a gated community. The village and surrounding areas offer residents and visitors services such as restaurants, gift shops, several stores with gas stations, post office, library, post office and fire department. A nine-hole golf course was centrally built many years ago, closed, then re-opened by volunteers for the benefit of the residents.
Red Feather Lakes are usually referred to as possessing 14 lakes, with eight of them in the village itself. Those belonging to Red Feather Storage and Irrigation Company are: Apache Lake, Lake Erie, Hiawatha Lake, Letitia Lake, Nokomis Lake, Snake Lake, Ramona Lake and Shagwa Lake. Several of these are 'no boats' lakes, although shoreline fishing is generally allowed. No gasoline motors are allowed on any of these lakes. Although there is no public record of the size of these lakes, most are between 10 and 40 acres. All hold brown trout, rainbow trout, brook trout and cut-throat trout along with the occasional tiger muskie. All of these lakes require property ownership or, if a long-term renter, membership fees. Regulations are strict and change according to conditions, so would-be fisher-folk are advised to check with the office regularly for any changes.
The six public lakes at Red Feather Lakes, owned by the State of Colorado, have more public information. All have different rules and require a Colorado fishing license. Statistics listed on the sidebar reflect Dowdy Lake as the largest.They are:
Dowdy Lake: elevation 8,120 feet, approximately 104 acres, shoreline of about three miles. The maximum depth of the lake is about 28 feet. Motorized boats are permitted. A day use area with a boat ramp and campground is located on the south shore.
Parvin Lake: 63 acres, no motors, no live bait, elevation 8,130 feet.
West Lake: 37 acres with campground, electric motors only, 8,240 feet elevation.
Bellaire Lake: 10 acres, elevation 8,640 feet, maximum depth 13 feet.
Creedmore Lake: 10 acres, elevation 8,254 feet.
Lost Lake- 7 acres, elevation 8,018 feet.
Vacation rentals around Red Feather Lakes are not hard to find. Besides the private homes and cabins rented by part-time residents, several organized groups offer a variety of rental options in a wide range of prices. The private golf and housing development also offers rental options which include the golf course and development services. Other lodging options, such as bed-and-breakfasts and guest ranches, can be found within a half-hour drive. Real estate is usually available in the area, often with lake views and sometimes with lake frontage. So, bring the trout gear, the dry-flies and waders. You're in for the treat of a lifetime at Red Feather Lakes.
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