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If fishing one "gold medal" lake is good, then two must be better - and that is just what you will find at Steamboat Lake in northwestern Colorado. This angler's paradise can be found within Steamboat Lake State Park and a mere three miles southeast at Pearl Lake State Park. The more quiet fishing retreat is 167-acre Pearl Lake. Set within the pristine countryside at the base of Farwell Mountain, Pearl Lake was specifically built for fishing and recreation. Larger Steamboat Lake State Park rests at the base of Hahn's Peak and offers extensive visitor services. Located 21 miles north of Steamboat Springs and 20 miles south of the Wyoming border, both parks are popular year-round recreation areas with exceptional fisheries for cutthroat trout.
Mention the name "Steamboat" and you immediately draw a connection to the outdoor attractions found in Colorado's Northwest Tourism Region. It remains a question whether a French fur trapper or Missouri emigrant first coined the phrase "Steamboat Springs," but all accounts agree that it was steam spewing from area hot springs that generated the sound of a steamboat. While hot springs may have provided the name for Steamboat Lake, gold was the attraction that brought settlers to what would become Routt County. Close to Steamboat Lake, mining took place on 11,000-foot Hahn's Peak in the 1860s. By the 1920s the area's economic base had changed to ranching, logging and outdoor recreation.
Built on Willow Creek, Steamboat Lake dam was under construction in the 1960s and completed by 1968. The resulting reservoir now reaches a maximum depth of 70 feet and average depth of 25 feet. Also receiving water from Mill Creek, Larsen Creek, Floyd Creek and Dutch Creek, the reservoir is owned and operated by the Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation (CDPOR). While built for recreation, the reservoir's storage capacity exceeding 26,000 acre-feet is designed to provide a backup water supply for Hayden Station Power Plant.
It is said that the dam area and several stream inlets on the west side of Steamboat Lake are good locations for bait, lure and fly fishing. Having received the designation of "gold medal" lake, anglers will find excellent rainbow and cutthroat trout with an occasional brook or brown trout. The park service maintains a bag limit of "four trout daily with a possession limit of eight trout total." A required Colorado fishing license may be purchased at the lake's marina. A handicapped accessible fishing pier is available at Sage Flats at the southeastern end of Steamboat Lake.
Boating is a major attraction on 1,011-acre Steamboat Lake. Coves and inlets along the north and west shore are restricted no-wake zones. The remainder of Steamboat Lake is open for wake boating, water-skiers and jet-skiers. Several boat ramps are available along the shore with a marina providing docks, boat rentals, bait and a convenience store.
The spectacular views of Routt National Forest make Steamboat Lake State Park an ideal location for family outings. Choice picnic sites along the lake shore or in the forest include picnic tables, fire rings or cooking grills. While spending the day at Steamboat Lake, be sure to stop at the visitor's center where displays and educational programs tell the story of Steamboat Springs State Park. For those brave enough to swim the cold water, a swim beach is available along the north shore.
Visitors who come to Steamboat Lake for more than a day will find non-electric and electric campsites. Camper cabins are available year-round. Amenities and services include restrooms, coin-operated showers, laundry, boat trailer storage and a dump station. Camping permits are required in addition to the daily or annual park pass.
The breathtaking peaks at Steamboat Lake form along the Continental Divide where varied landscapes include sagebrush, bitterbrush, rabbitbrush and lupine leading up the slopes to lodgepole pines and aspen trees. The spectacular scenery draws bird watchers and wildlife watchers to Steamboat Lake. A watchful eye may catch a glimpse of a red fox, mule deer, elk, beaver, snowshoe hare or black bear. Wet meadows found along the tributaries and shores of Steamboat Lake attract bald eagles, northern harrier, osprey, great blue heron, and western screech owl. If you are fortunate, you may observe greater sandhill cranes returning to nest in the spring.
During winter months exceptional hiking and mountain biking trails found within Steamboat Lake State Park become snowshoe and cross-country ski trails. Horseback riding is available within undeveloped park land. Move into surrounding Routt National Forest and you will have access to land and countless trails from north central Colorado into central Wyoming. Within the forest, over 150 miles of trails provide access to a true wilderness experience. One of the country's first wilderness areas, Mount Zirkel Wilderness lies about 15 miles east of Steamboat Lake. With almost 160,000 acres, Mount Zirkel Wilderness spans the Continental Divide and contains over 70 lakes and 15 mountain peaks exceeding 12,000 feet.
For a taste of urban life, the community of Steamboat Springs, also called Ski Town USA, is a quick drive south of Steamboat Lake. Winter sports and summer adventures draw year-round visitors to this community of over 10,000 residents. Catering to varied tastes of world visitors, Steamboat Springs provides an irresistible assortment of shops and restaurants that will satisfy every taste. Along the Yampa River, and within the city itself, visitors will find golf courses, indoor and outdoor tennis, biking, hiking, hot springs, kayaking, fly fishing and horseback riding readily available. With a one billion dollar transformation underway, the city of Steamboat Springs and surrounding area are attracting new developments, expanding services, and encouraging the preservation and promotion of the region's history.
Throughout the communities and countryside surrounding Steamboat Lake you will find an exciting selection of vacation rentals, real estate properties, inns, resorts and lodges. A quick preview of the many choices guarantees that you will find accommodations to match your needs and desires. Come to Steamboat Lake and enjoy a "gold medal" experience with spectacular views, exciting outdoor adventures and unforgettable fishing.
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