Exploring Ridgway Reservoir: Boating Adventures in Colorado


This popular year-round destination offers visitors a variety of watersports and boating activities amidst breathtaking scenery.

With over 800 surface acres of water fed by the Uncompahgre River, Ridgway Reservoir is ideal for kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding, waterskiing, wakeboarding, sailing, and motorboating. Its serene coves, scenic islands, and secluded beaches provide the perfect backdrop for a fun day on the water with family and friends.

In addition to boating, Ridgway State Park features excellent fishing, abundant wildlife, developed campgrounds, picnic areas, hiking trails, and stunning views of the surrounding mountains. It’s an outdoor lover’s paradise.


  • Ridgway Reservoir offers kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, waterskiing, wakeboarding, sailing, and motorboating.
  • Excellent fishing, wildlife viewing, developed campgrounds, beaches, and hiking trails.
  • Breathtaking scenery with the San Juan Mountains as a backdrop.

Key Attractions

The main attraction bringing visitors to Ridgway Reservoir is the variety of boating and watersports available. With over 800 acres of water surface, the reservoir has plenty of room for every type of watercraft.

Motorized boats are restricted to wakeless speeds in certain areas to allow peaceful paddling and sailing. Visitors can bring their own non-motorized boats or take advantage of marina boat rentals and lessons. Waterskiing and wakeboarding are popular thanks to calm sections of open water.

In addition to boating, Ridgway offers premier trout fishing, with healthy populations of rainbow, brown, cutthroat, and kokanee salmon. Anglers will find well-stocked waters and secluded fishing holes all around the reservoir.

You can also go on trail walks to admire the

Local Experiences and Culture

While enjoying the water and scenery, visitors will also experience small-town mountain culture. The nearby Victorian town of Ridgway offers galleries, shops, restaurants, and year-round community events.

Don’t miss chatting with the friendly locals and Colorado State Parks employees. Their stories and tips help enrich the Ridgway experience. Knowledgeable rangers also lead interpretive programs and activities throughout the seasons focused on local history, wildlife, and outdoor skills.

Watersports and Activities

With over 800 acres of water surface and 27 miles of shoreline, Ridgway Reservoir has endless options for Colorado outdoors adventures. Visitors can explore the many coves and inlets while kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding. Rentals and lessons are available for those new to the sports.

More adventurous paddlers can join guided overnight camping trips to the reservoir’s secluded backcountry sites only accessible by water. Multi-day excursions allow deeper immersion into this special landscape.

Water skiing and wakeboarding are also popular sports thanks to calm sections of open water. Riders of all levels can perfect their skills with ideal conditions. Local marinas rent ski boats and boards and offer beginner lessons.

Fishing and Wildlife Viewing

In addition to an abundance of watersports, Ridgway Reservoir is also a top fishing destination in Colorado. Anglers have excellent opportunities to catch rainbow trout, brown trout, cutthroat trout, kokanee salmon, smallmouth bass, and yellow perch.

The best fishing areas include Dam Cove, Pa-Co-Chu-Puk Cove, Cottonwood Cove, Elk Creek inlet, and along the dam. A valid Colorado fishing license is required.

Wildlife viewing by boat is also exceptional, especially during migration seasons when the reservoir serves as a stopover for diverse waterfowl. Lucky visitors may spot river otters, osprey, bald eagles, mule deer, and herds of bighorn sheep.

Family and Group Activities

Ridgway Reservoir is an ideal Colorado park destination for family boating trips and group outings. With its developed recreation sites, gentle waters, islands to explore, and beach picnic areas, visitors of all ages can enjoy non-motorized boating with paddle board rentals and lessons tailored for families.

The reservoir’s swim beach provides safe, shallow entry for children to cool off in the refreshing water. Picnic shelters host gatherings with scenic views. Groups can also reserve the larger Elk Creek and Dutch Charlie group picnic area locations for events.

Safety and Regulations

To ensure a safe, enjoyable experience, all boaters must follow Colorado boating regulations and be aware of seasonal water level variations. Park staff recommend taking a boating safety course before operating motorized watercraft.

Ridgway Reservoir’s water levels fluctuate annually based on snowpack, runoff, and irrigation demands. Lower water levels in late summer can create new obstacles. Visitors should check current lake levels before launching.

No wake zones, swim areas, marinas, and launch ramps have strictly enforced rules. Boat inspections prevent invasive species that could alter fragile ecosystems. Permits, passes, and licenses ensure access to responsible recreation.

Seasonal Activities and Events

The moderate climate of Ridgway makes for a long season of boating and watersports. While peak visitation occurs during the warm, dry summer months, the reservoir remains open for boating year-round after ice-off in spring.

Anglers enjoy excellent ice fishing once the lake freezes over, typically by January. Cross country skiing and snowshoeing trails allow winter exploration of the snow-covered landscape.

Annual events like the Ridgway RiverFest, 4th of July Fireworks, and Labor Day festivities draw summer crowds for live music, food, competitions, and family activities that complement boating time.

Planning Your Visit

Ridgway State Park offers over 200 campsites and 5 group camping areas to accommodate overnight guests. The town of Ridgway also offers hotels, B&Bs, vacation rentals, and restaurants just 10 minutes from the reservoir.

In addition to boating, visitors should save time by hiking the park’s scenic trails that lead to secluded coves and backcountry campsites only accessible by boat or foot.

With its combination of mountain scenery, an abundance of outdoor recreation, and small-town hospitality, Ridgway Reservoir truly has something for everyone seeking adventure and serenity amidst the natural beauty of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains.


The following FAQs provide information visitors should know before boating at Ridgway Reservoir.

How can I rent boats, kayaks, or stand-up paddleboards?

Local rental shops provide hourly and daily rentals for powerboats, kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, and more. Reservations are recommended.

Where are the closest boat launch ramps?

Developed launch ramps with parking are located at the Ridgway Blue Heron Marina, Dutch Creek, and Pa-Co-Chu-Puk areas. Additional primitive ramps require 4WD vehicles.

What types of fish can I catch?

Rainbow trout, brown trout, cutthroat trout, kokanee salmon, smallmouth bass, and yellow perch are among the species in the reservoir, which is regularly stocked by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Are there swimming beaches?

Yes, swim beaches are located in Cottonwood, Pa-Co-Chu-Puk, Horsefly, and Elk Creek areas. These areas provide roped-off swimming and wading areas. Lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Can I bring my pet while boating?

Dogs and other pets are allowed on boats but must be leashed at all times. Owners must clean up after pets on shore. Dogs are not permitted on swim beaches.

Do I need a boating license?

Anyone over 16 must have a valid boating safety certificate issued by Colorado Parks and Wildlife to legally operate any motorboat over 10 horsepower.


About the author

Ransom Patterson

My expertise in Colorado life extends beyond just residing here; it’s also about living actively within the community. I spend my time cycling through Denver’s trails, experimenting with local cuisines, and immersing myself in the local music scene. These activities give me a unique perspective on the cultural and outdoor offerings of Colorado. This hands-on approach allows me to provide insider tips and personal recommendations that resonate with both locals and visitors alike.