Colorado State Parks: John Martin Reservoir

This week we’re featuring John Martin Reservoir State Park, a large reservoir in southeastern Colorado otherwise known as the “sapphire of the plains.”

A landscape photo showing a rocky shore meeting up with a body of water under a blue sky with a few scattered clouds.
John Martin Reservoir State Park. Photo from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

John Martin Reservoir is located along the Arkansas River in Bent County. It is named for John Martin, who served as a Democratic representative for Colorado’s 3rd district from 1933-1939. During his time in Congress, Martin advocated for legislation to approve building the reservoir. Construction of the dam began in 1939, although it was not fully completed until 1948. When it’s full, the reservoir has a surface area of about 30 square miles – the second largest body of water in Colorado!

The state park is located on the north shore of the reservoir and includes the smaller Lake Hasty just below the dam. The reservoir and surrounding trails, wetlands, and campgrounds serve as the perfect setting for many recreational activities. Some of the most popular include waterskiing, fishing, birding, and hiking. John Martin is also home to hundreds of wildlife species – before heading to the park, be sure to check the park conditions to avoid seasonal closures that provide protection for migrating or nesting birds.

Bald eagles are one protected species that particularly enjoys the remote location, abundant fish, and big trees that are available in John Martin. Many bald eagles roost throughout John Martin during the winter; in the early 2000s, aerial counts identified over a hundred eagles in the park. Eagle spotting is so popular in John Martin that state parks staff published Bald Eagles at John Martin Reservoir State Park, which is available in our digital repository. It contains information about the park’s eagle population and best practices for viewing bald eagles. If you’d like to see our national symbol in person, a trip to John Martin is a good bet!

Miranda Doran-Myers
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