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Seated at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in southeastern Colorado, Trinidad Lake is a great place to fish, boat, sail, and enjoy the outdoors. With its rich history, the nearby town of Trinidad rounds out a visit to the lake providing something to interest everyone.
An impoundment of the Purgatoire River, Trinidad Lake was created for flood control and to provide water for irrigation and recreation. Trinidad Dam, completed in 1977, along with the resultant lake is controlled be the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The water levels on the lake fluctuate significantly based on irrigation needs, making swimming in the lake prohibited. Visitors to the lake should be aware of the fluctuations, but the lake levels still support good boating and fishing.
Trinidad Lake hosts several fishing tournaments every year, and both novice and experienced anglers will find plenty of fish to challenge them. The Colorado Division of Wildlife stocks the lake with over 50,000 trout annually. In addition to the rainbow and brown trout, there are good populations of largemouth bass, channel catfish, walleye, crappie, and blue gill. Anglers can fish from the shore or by boat. There is a public boat ramp, and waterskiing and jet skiing are popular lake pastimes.
There is plenty to explore on the land around Trinidad Lake as well. Trinidad State Park borders the Santa Fe Trail and the Highway of Legends in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Visitors to the park can explore on foot, horseback, or bike, and there are over nine miles of trails. Although not groomed, trails are open for cross country skiing in the winter. There is a visitor's center and camping in the park on Carpios Ridge, 150 feet above the lake. In 2006 it was selected as one of America's top 100 family campgrounds.
The short and mixed grass prairies and pinion-juniper forest around Trinidad Lake offers ample opportunity to see birds and wildlife including pinion jays, roadrunners, deer , and elk. There are duck blinds and lots of waterfowl to see especially on the south shore trail.
The waters of the Purgatiore River that make up Trinidad Lake cut through upper cretaceous Trinidad sandstone and Pierre shale. Geologists from all over are drawn to the lake and more specifically to Long's Canyon Trail. It's one of the best examples anywhere in the country of a K-T boundary which marks the boundary between the Mesozoic and Cenozoic geological areas. Even novice geologists can see the change in color of the stone that marks the K-T boundary.
Although recent by geological time, Trinidad, founded in 1861 was a real frontier town. This charming town has "old west" character, beautifully restored architecture, and even some brick paved streets. The Trinidad Trolley gives rides through the historic district where visitors can explore the past at the Trinidad Historical Museum. The museum is comprised of several homes including the Baca House and gardens, and Bloom Mansion, home of banker and cattle baron Frank Bloom. In nearby Cokedale, visitors can explore the historic coal mining ruins, and at the Santa Fe Trail Museum visitors can see Kit Carson's buckskin coat.
Its rich Santa Fe Trail history, interesting geology, ample wildlife and fantastic fishing make Trinidad Lake the perfect old west getaway.
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