Kayaking at Barr Lake: Wildlife and Safety


Barr Lake State Park, located just 25 miles northeast of Denver, offers a unique and accessible kayaking experience for outdoor enthusiasts. With its 1,900-acre reservoir and diverse ecosystem, Barr Lake has become a popular destination for kayakers to explore the beauty of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Front Range.


  • Barr Lake State Park provides an ideal setting for kayaking and paddle board fans, with calm waters and stunning views of the Rocky Mountains.
  • The park's unique ecosystem supports a wide variety of wildlife, making it a haven for bird watchers and nature lovers.
  • Kayaking at Barr Lake is possible year-round, but the best conditions are typically found from late spring to early fall.

Understanding Barr Lake’s Ecosystem

Barr Lake is home to a thriving ecosystem that supports a wide array of plant and animal life. The lake is surrounded by wetlands, grasslands, and cottonwood groves, which provide habitat for over 350 species of birds, including bald eagles, pelicans, and herons. As a kayaker, you can observe this wildlife up close and interact with the ecosystem responsibly.

To minimize your impact on the environment, be sure to:

  • Stay at least 200 feet away from wildlife, especially during nesting season
  • Avoid disturbing vegetation as you paddle, and don't leave trash behind
  • Follow all park regulations and guidelines for protecting the ecosystem

Preparing for Your Kayaking Adventure

Before setting out on your kayaking adventure at Barr Lake, having the right gear and safety equipment is essential. Key items include:

  • A properly fitting life jacket
  • A whistle or other sound-signaling device
  • Sun protection (hat, sunglasses, sunscreen)
  • Water and snacks
  • A map or GPS device

When choosing a kayak for Barr Lake, consider the lake’s conditions and your skill level. Sit-on-top kayaks are popular for their stability and ease of use, while sit-inside kayaks offer more protection from the elements.

You must purchase a daily or annual pass to access Barr Lake State Park. As of 2023, daily passes cost $9 per vehicle, while annual passes start at $80.

Navigating Barr Lake’s Waters

Barr Lake offers plenty of open water for kayaking, with the shoreline stretching for over 8 miles. Some of the best areas for paddling include:

  • The western shore offers views of the mountains and opportunities for bird-watching.
  • The lake's southern end allows you to explore the wetlands and observe wildlife.
  • The northern end features a quieter, more secluded atmosphere.

When navigating Barr Lake, be aware of potential hazards such as submerged rocks or logs, and always stay alert for changes in weather conditions. As there is boat ramp access to the lake and small motorized boats are allowed, pay attention to boat traffic and other water sports users, too. The best times for kayaking are typically early morning or late afternoon when winds are calmer, and wildlife is more active.

Wildlife and Scenery

One of the main draws of kayaking at Barr Lake is observing wildlife in its natural habitat. Some common sightings include:

  • Bald eagles soaring overhead or perched in cottonwood trees
  • Pelicans and cormorants diving for fish
  • Herons and egrets wading in the shallows
  • Muskrats and beavers swimming near the shore

Bring a camera or smartphone with a waterproof case to capture the beauty of Barr Lake’s scenery and wildlife. When photographing animals, use a zoom lens and maintain a respectful distance to avoid disturbing them.

Kayaking Groups and Guided Tours

Joining a kayaking group or guided tour can greatly enhance your experience at Barr Lake. Benefits include:

  • Learning from experienced kayakers and naturalists
  • Accessing areas of the lake that may be difficult to reach on your own
  • Enjoying the camaraderie of fellow paddlers

Check with local outdoor recreation organizations or the park’s visitor center to find kayaking groups or tours at Barr Lake. Guided tours typically last 1-2 hours and may include equipment rentals and instruction.

Enhancing Your Kayaking Experience

To make the most of your time at Barr Lake, consider combining kayaking with other activities such as:

  • Fishing for bass, perch, or trout (a valid Colorado fishing license is required)
  • Birdwatching with binoculars or a spotting scope
  • Hiking the park's 12 miles of trails, including an 8.8-mile trail loop around the lake

Barr Lake also hosts seasonal events like guided moonlight paddles and birding festivals. For more information about upcoming activities, check the park’s website or stop in at the Nature Center.

Safety and Conservation

To ensure a safe and enjoyable kayaking experience at Barr Lake, follow these essential safety practices:

  • Always wear a life jacket and bring essential safety gear
  • Check weather conditions before heading out and be prepared for changes
  • Stay close to shore and avoid paddling alone, especially if you're a beginner
  • Know your limits, and don't overexert yourself

As a kayaker, you can also contribute to conservation efforts at Barr Lake by:

  • Properly disposing of trash and waste
  • Reporting any signs of pollution or ecosystem damage to park staff
  • Supporting local conservation organizations through volunteering or donations

Following the regulations and guidelines governing all Colorado State Parks, you can help preserve the lake’s natural beauty for future generations of kayakers, water sports enthusiasts, and wildlife lovers.


What is the best time of year to kayak at Barr Lake?

The best time to kayak at Barr Lake is typically from late spring to early fall when weather conditions are mild and wildlife is most active. However, if you’re prepared for colder temperatures, kayaking is possible year-round.

Are there any restrictions or permits required for kayaking at Barr Lake?

You must purchase a daily or annual pass to access Barr Lake State Park. As of 2023, daily passes cost $9 per vehicle, while annual passes start at $80. No additional permits are required for kayaking.

Can beginners kayak at Barr Lake, or is it more suited to experienced kayakers?

Barr Lake is a great destination for kayakers of all skill levels, thanks to its calm waters and easy access points. Beginners can start with shorter paddles along the shoreline, while more experienced kayakers can explore the lake’s open waters and wetlands.

What wildlife might I see while kayaking at Barr Lake?

Barr Lake is home to over 350 species of birds, including bald eagles, pelicans, herons, and cormorants. You may also spot mammals such as muskrats, beavers, reptiles, and amphibians like turtles and frogs.

Are there any recommended routes or areas of Barr Lake for kayaking?

Some of the best areas for kayaking at Barr Lake include the western shore, which offers mountain views and bird-watching opportunities; the southern end, where you can explore wetlands and observe wildlife; and the northern end, which features a quieter, more secluded atmosphere.

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About the author

Simone Weisman

My deep appreciation for nature and active living strongly aligns with the vibrant outdoor culture of Colorado. My enjoyment of yoga, hiking, and exploring scenic trails provides me with a unique perspective that I bring to ReadyColorado.com. This personal passion enriches my ability to connect with and inspire our audience, whether they’re local residents or visitors seeking to explore all that Colorado has to offer.