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In the mid 1800's gold was discovered in Lake County Colorado, and everything changed. Settlers moved west seeking their fortunes and discovered not only gold but also the treasure of Twin Lakes.
Made up of two natural glacial lakes, Twin Lakes are tucked at the base of Mt. Elbert in South Central Colorado. Located in the San Isabel National Forest, the mountain is named for Samuel Hitt Elbert, a Colorado statesman. At 14,433 feet, Mt. Elbert is Colorado's highest mountain and the second highest peak in the contiguous United States.
Although the lakes are natural, the Twin Lakes Dam was constructed in 1978 about 2,500 feet downstream from the original location of Twin Lakes, making the lakes part of a project to store water in the Pueblo Reservoir. Water is moved from Turquoise Lake to Mt. Elbert's power plant and then on to Twin Lakes. From there the water goes to Lake Creek and the Arkansas River and on to the Pueblo Reservoir. The Mt. Elbert power plant is on the north shore of Twin Lakes. The plant is equal to a 14-story building most of which is below ground, and includes a visitor center that's open in the summer to explain the project.
Recreation on and around Twin Lakes is managed by the U.S. Forest Service with camping, hiking, climbing (including ice climbing), and snowmobiling. Located in the San Isabel National Forest, the Forest Service offers a boat ramp and four campgrounds: Dexter Point, Lakeview, Twin Peaks, and Parry Peak. The lakes are only 34 miles from Aspen and about an hour from Copper Mountain and Breckenridge, names familiar to skiers. Twin Lakes offer great boating and fishing for Mackinaw, rainbow, and brown trout. Ice fishing is popular in winter.
Two miles west of the lakes is Twin Lakes Village, a National Historic Site. Settled in 1879, it was part of the area's prospecting boom that started with gold and then moved to silver and lead. The Denver and Rio Grand Railroad arrived at Twin Lake Station, and it became a mining transportation hub for Leadville and Aspen. Mining ended, but by that time tourism was thriving. In 1885, a resort community named Interlaken was built on the southern shore of the lower lake. Today, Interlaken is preserved by the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation and includes a nautical style cabin from the 1890's, the hotel, two granaries, a stable, laundry, privy, and cow barn. Visitors can find Interlaken by following the Colorado Trail. Nearby Leadville, a historic mining town complete with an old west saloon, is a National Historic Landmark District and a great place to visit.
Rich history, majestic mountain peaks, and clean glacial water combine to make Twin Lakes a fantastic mountain getaway.
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