Larimer County Moves to Improve Public Safety at Reservoirs

Photo by Laura Stanley from Pexels

Larimer County Natural Resources Separates Paddlecraft Use From Motorized Boating to Increase Public Safety at Horsetooth Reservoir

With the 2021 boating season now open at Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake Reservoir, public safety is the top priority on the water this spring for Larimer County Natural Resources (LCDNR). In 2020, each reservoir experienced an approximate 30% increase in day-use visitation, while simultaneously experiencing a 40% increase over 2019 in Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) boat inspections.

To keep all recreators safe on the water, LCDNR is designating Satanka Bay, the northern cove at Horsetooth Reservoir, as a wakeless “Paddlecraft Only Zone.” The west side of Satanka Bay is closed to motorized boats (limited to paddle crafts only), while the east side and the remainder of Horsetooth Reservoir remains open to motorized boats.

In response to record visitation in 2020 and the exponential rise in paddle craft concentration at Horsetooth over the last five years, LCDNR has implemented this management practice to separate recreation use, which will ensure increased safety of all visitors on the water. The ‘Paddlecraft Only Zone’ will allow paddlers to not intermingle with motorized boats. Paddle crafts include paddleboards, canoes, and kayaks.

“This separation of boaters and paddle crafts is an effort to increase public safety while decreasing rescue response due to high visitation and the increased number of paddlers on the water at the reservoir,” said Mark Caughlan, Horsetooth Reservoir District Manager.

Motorized boats can launch via the Satanka boat ramp beginning May 1. Launching of paddle crafts (paddleboards, kayaks, canoes) will occur to the southwest of the boat ramp. Buoys mark the dividing line for the designated use areas (See map).

Larimer County Natural Resources is recommending caution as boaters/paddlers and anglers approach spring waters for recreation. Other safety guidelines include:

  • Be sure to have the required number and correct type of personal flotation devices (PFD).
  • Children 12 and under are required by law to wear a PFD at all times.
  • Paddlers must have a whistle at all times.
  • Before you arrive, check the forecast. Be ready for sudden high winds and springtime weather changes.
  • Tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return.
  • Despite warm air temperature, spring water is deceptively cold (high 30s-low 40s) – increasing the risk of hypothermia. Bring extra layers of clothing and rain gear.
  • Wear sunscreen and avoid alcohol.
  • Be respectful of other vessels on the water.
  • Know and understand all the laws of any body of water you plan to fish, boat, or paddle.
  • Maximum crowding experienced in 2020 coupled with no designated entrance or exit for paddle crafts led to increased near-misses, injury, and paddler rescues at Horsetooth Reservoir. The state of Colorado experienced its deadliest year of drownings in the summer of 2020 with a total of 29 lives lost.

For Larimer County boating information and ramp hours, please visit

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