Snowpack threatens opening day for campgrounds in Northwest Colorado |

Snowpack threatens opening day for campgrounds in Northwest Colorado

A camp site at Pearl Lake State Park. The campground is one of many in Northwest Colorado that may have a delayed opening due to the amount of snow on the ground even in late April.
Pearl Lake State Park/Courtesy photo

Some campgrounds in Northwest Colorado could be in danger of a delayed opening to their reservation seasons.

The intense winter weather and continued fluctuating temperatures are threatening the opening days for state park campgrounds in Routt, Eagle and Mesa counties.

Parks affected include Steamboat Lake, Pearl Lake, Yampa River, Stagecoach, State Forest, Sylvan Lakeand Vega State Parks.

The snow has piled so high in some places, park staff do not have access to campground areas without causing potential damages. There is currently no firm timeline for when each park will open.

“Normally we have a little more time to get it all done before we open up to reservations,” Steamboat Lake park ranger Kirsten Miller said. “It is going to be interesting to see what Mother Nature offers us as a timeline.”

Miller’s goal is to alert reservation holders of a potential delayed opening. Currently, Steamboat Lake camping is scheduled to open May 26, but the snow in North Routt could call for a change of plans.

“It is still difficult to fully grasp the amount because everything for reference (picnic tables, campsite markers, fences, electrical pedestals) is completely buried still,” Steamboat Lake and Pearl Lake State Parks wrote in a Facebook post.

Rangers in North Routt cannot go to the dump station, cannot turn the water on throughout the park and cannot reach the bathroom facilities, which are all under snow.

Once the snow finally melts, Miller said, they will potentially run into an even bigger problem.

“The ground is going to be incredibly saturated, so our main road within the campground loops are paved themselves, but the campsite paths are not,” she said. “If we were to allow people to pull those big and heavy RVs into the campsite, it will cause ruts and damage we will not be able to fix.”

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Concerns of flooded campsites and the potential for visitors causing further erosion on the trails will also play a factor in opening day delays.

Stagecoach State Park in South Routt is experiencing similar issues, but has dealt with significantly less snow and freezing temperatures recently. The park still plans to open its campsite to reservation holders on May 15, with the caveat that things may change with the weather.

“You can see our picnic tables now and our sight markers,” said Kelsey Kehm with Stagecoach State Park. “Most of it is primarily gone in the campground except for our snow berm at our entrances. That is the only thing we are worried about right now.”

At the moment, the snow berms are frozen and immovable. As they begin to melt, park staff will be able to plow the area to open it up more, Kehm said. First-come, first-served camping, which traditionally starts May 1, will likely be in jeopardy of opening on time.

“We also open the boat ramp on May 1, but our lake is still frozen,” Kehm said. “It was opening up the other day, but now it is frozen again because of the cold temperatures the last few days. If there is still ice on the lake, then we will not open the boat ramp on May 1.”

Elkhead Reservoir and Hayden-area campgrounds have full intentions of opening at the start of May.

With fewer trees to hold the moisture in, campgrounds in west Routt County will likely begin to dry out and open on time with typical muddy conditions for early May camping.

Campsites across Northwest Colorado have experienced an influx in campers and reservations in recent years. Many are booked throughout the summer. These potential delays will likely impact more people than prior seasons, just from the increased interest alone.

Those who have a camping reservation at a site that will not open as scheduled will be contacted directly from the park two weeks prior to their reservation date. Any questions or concerns should also be brought to the park directly.

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