Colorado State Parks: Jackson Lake

This installment of our state parks series takes us to the “oasis in the plains”: Jackson Lake State Park.

Jackson Lake (otherwise known as the Jackson Reservoir) is located in northeastern Morgan County. The reservoir was built between 1901 and 1902 to store water to meet the needs of Colorado’s growing settler population. Water held in the reservoir is fed by canals stemming from the South Platte River and continues to irrigate farmland in the surrounding plains. The state began managing recreational facilities around the reservoir in the early 1960s, creating Jackson Lake State Park.

Two people sit facing away from the camera on camp chairs in a plains landscape at dusk, looking up at the night sky with a telescope pointing towards the sky at the center of the image
Stargazing at Jackson Lake State Park. Photo from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Many visitors to Jackson Lake take advantage of the recreational opportunities provided by the 2,700-acre reservoir. Unlike the higher-altitude reservoirs, the water in Jackson Lake is relatively warm and is habitable for fish like wall-eye, saugeye, catfish, and perch. The warm water also attracts waterfowl to the reservoir, which makes Jackson Lake a popular location for waterfowl hunters as well. Be sure to read through Jackson Lake’s fishing and hunting regulations held in our digital repository before heading out to the park.

In 2020 Jackson Lake earned a new claim to fame when it became the first Colorado state park to earn the International Dark Sky Park designation. This means that the park possesses, “an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights.” To earn this designation, Jackson Lake staff worked to diminish light pollution in the park by removing large streetlights and updating the remaining lights to be dark sky compliant. All this effort has resulted in one of the best places in Colorado to view the night sky. Be sure to bring a Check Out Colorado State Parks backpack along – it contains seasonal glow-in-the-dark star charts so you can decipher the constellations without obscuring the night sky with bright lights!

Miranda Doran-Myers
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