Dillon Reservoir

Dillon Reservoir Questions and Answers

Breaking News! Dillon Reservoir Marinas will open May 22nd with crucial Covid-19 guidelines! That means we will be offering private tours only starting on May 22nd

We get a ton of questions about Dillon Reservoir while kayaking, so this blog post is my attempt to answer the most asked questions about Dillon Reservoir.

Can you swim in Dillon Reservoir?

The short answer is no, but there is a little more to this story. Adventure Paddle Tours started offering guided kayak tours on Dillon in 2009. Way back then, one could easily get a ticket if you were caught swimming. Denver Water?s strict stance was absolutely no swimming on the reservoir, and since Denver Water technically owns Dillon Reservoir, whatever they say goes. The interesting thing, though, is that initially, Denver?s stance on no swimming in Dillon was mainly due to their water treatment capabilities. Denver Water's cleaning technology and capabilities have greatly improved, and they say the water is super clean now.

So, why can't we swim in Dillon Reservoir today? The answer is the water is simply too cold. Dillon is often lowered twenty to thirty feet every spring because of all of the snowmelt that rushes in. All of that snowmelt, combined with the depth of Dillon, keeps the water super cold year-round. With no swimming allowed they also do not allow jet skis or skiing. Dillon Reservoir is owned by Denver Water, but it is managed by The Dillon Reservoir Recreation Committee, these guys are responsible for implementing regulations and provide Marine Patrol.

How cold is Dillon?

On average, Dillon is around 50 degrees, but early season it can be as cold as 45 degrees, and in late summer, it can be as high as 65 degrees.

Why is Dillon often low?

Many factors come in to play with Dillon's water levels, and the main factor is snowmelt. However, we might have the most epic snow totals in history, like in 2019, but still have a low reservoir. The reason for this is that Denver Water is actively releasing water downstream in preparation for the massive snowmelt Dillon Reservoir is about to receive. They have water level predictions down to a science too! If you visited Dillon Reservoir in early June of 2019, you would have seen Dillon at 40 to 50 feet below full.

Hiking above Dillon Reservoir
View of Dillon from Buffalo Mountain

Conversely, if you had visited Dillon Reservoir in August of 2019, you would have seen Dillon Reservoir at its highest level ever recorded! Snowmelt is the number one factor involved in Dillon Reservoir water levels. However, Denver Water is in the water business, which means they sell water. Denver Water sells water to Denver residents, but it can also sell or trade water downstream to other water stakeholders. Remember, Dillon Reservoir is part of the Colorado River system, and we have all read about the many issues the Colorado River faces. Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and California all pull water from the mighty Colorado River.

Can you camp on Dillon?

Yes, camping on Dillon is incredible! However, there is no dispersed camping, and there is absolutely no camping on the Islands. Camping on the islands is prohibited due to the potential of spreading noxious weeds. The county puts a lot of resources in trying to remove noxious weeds, and they actually ferry utility vehicles to the islands to spray.
Even with those two restrictions in place, there are tons of great campsites. There are 5 campgrounds on the reservoir; Windy Point, Prospector, Heaton Bay, Peak 1, and Lowry. Lowry is not actually on Dillon but is just across Swan Mountain Road.

My favorite campsite on all of Dillon Reservoir is in Loop D at the Heaton Bay Campground. There are five to 10 tent-only sites, and all are on the water's edge, offering an excellent opportunity for immediate access to Dillon Reservoir water. We actually kayak by this campground on every kayak tour

The campsites on Dillon are often sold out, and reservations can be made at recreation.gov I have also heard that even if all sites are sold out, you can visit Lowry or Prospector on the Keystone side of Dillon, and they will set you up with a tent only site. I have never tried that, but it's worth checking out if you end up in a bind. There are also untold amounts of dispersed camping throughout the county. You just have to look for them. Here is the link to the Heaton Bay Campground, it is my favorite. You will need to google the other campgrounds to make sure you reserve the right one.

When does the reservoir open and close?

Dillon is more or less open year-round to walk-in access, and the ice typically melts mid-May. The marinas usually try hard to open by Memorial day weekend. Still, they often have tons of work to get things open. Since the reservoir freezes every year, both marinas have to pull out a ton of their infrastructure, so the ice doesn't damage it. You can often kayak Dillon as late as December.

Where can I launch my boat?

I wrote a separate blog on where to hand launch your kayak. You can visit that here. If you are launching a trailered boat, you can only launch from either the Frisco Bay Marina or the Dillon Marina. Both marinas require an extensive aquatic invasive inspection, and they will not let you launch until all of the boxes have been checked. If it is found you are carrying mud, water, or hitchhikers, they will charge you for a steam cleaning. Do not try to skirt this!

Is there a town under Dillon Reservoir?

The first year we were running tours, we often had guests tell the whole group about how the original town of Dillon is at the bottom. The Town of Dillon indeed used to be where Dillon Reservoir is. However, it's somewhat incorrect in saying there are still buildings underneath. In fact, most of the buildings that were worth keeping were moved, and you can even visit them today. My favorite restaurant in the county, Arapahoe Cafe, operates in a building that used to be where Dillon Reservoir sits today. Check their menu out here. ?The mint, Old Dillon Inn, and a few buildings in Breckenridge and Frisco all used to be where Dillon Reservoir sits today. Lastly, any building that was left behind was demolished before Dillon Reservoir was filled.

How deep is Dillon?

Just over 200 feet. I have been on a boat with a depth finder, and we did find a 230-foot spot.

Can you rent a boat on Dillon Reservoir?

Yes, you can rent pontoon boats, fishing boats, sailboats, kayaks, and canoes. We provide guided kayak tours on Dillon Reservoir out of the Frisco Bay Marina.

Where to rent a sailboat on Dillon Reservoir?

If you want to sail on Dillon Reservoir, you should definitely reach out to Tom and Seth with Windrider of the Rockies. You can book a lesson, rental, or tour from https://windrider.us and they don't take reservations over the phone. Just like us, they operate out of the Frisco Bay Marina, and reservations by phone are difficult there.

Can you hike or bike on Dillon?

There are tons of hiking trails, singletrack bike trails, and a paved recreation path. My favorite hike on the water is the Meadow Loop and Ridge Trail on the Dillon side. My favorite mountain biking on Dillon is on the Frisco Recreation peninsula. There are tons of interconnected trails here, so depending on your timeframe, you can do 5 miles or even 20. The best way to use the county paved rec path is to start at the Frisco Bay Marina, bike to the Dillon Marina then take the Summit Shuttle back to Frisco.

Biking the Peninsula on Dillon

When is the best time to visit Dillon Reservoir?

This is a tough question to answer. If you're looking for light winds for kayaking or rowing, it's definitely in the morning. If you want to sail with good winds anytime after 11 is excellent. September is probably my favorite time of year to be out. It can still be pretty warm, but can also get super cold. If you want excellent aspen watching, try the second week of October. Don't overlook the sunsets! Sunsets are often spectacular on Dillon, you just need to pay attention to the thunderstorm forecast. We offer a Sunset Kayak Tour a few days a week.

sunset over mountains
Sunset Kayak Tour on Dillon

What kind of fish are in Dillon Reservoir?

There are more Rainbow trout than anything else, but there is also a growing population of Arctic Char. There are brown trout, cutthroat and kokanee salmon too. If you want a guided fishing trip reach out to Randy with Alpine Fishing Adventures. They offer boat trips in the summer and ice fishing in the winter.

How big is Dillon Reservoir?

Dillon is 3,200 acres has 26 miles of shoreline, and is Colorado's 3rd largest reservoir.

I hope I was able to answer any questions you might have about this amazing place, but if I did not, please, don't hesitate to reach out. I'm pretty sure we will have an answer to just about any question. If you want to learn more about Dillon or just want to explore this fantastic place, please join us on a kayak tour today! You can book a guided kayak tour from adventurepaddletours.com/kayak-tours. We are the topped rank activity in Frisco and have been offering guided kayak tours on Dillon since 2009! There is so much to see and learn!

What to Know About Dillon Reservoir Before You Go

Want to visit Dillon Reservoir? This large freshwater reservoir in Summit County, Colorado, also sometimes known as Lake Dillon, is just outside of Denver. The reservoir itself is owned and operated by Denver water, and serves as a popular recreation area.

Dillion Reservoir is perfect for day trips to escape the heat of Denver in the summer and enjoy a fun-filled time outdoors. If you want to visit and want to learn more about Dillion Reservoir, find out the things you need to know about the Dillon Reservoir before you go!

Where is Dillon Reservoir?

Dillon Reservoir is located between Frisco and Dillon in Summit County, CO. It?s 70 miles from downtown Denver, 9 miles from Breckenridge, and 28 miles from Vail. All in all, it?s about an hour?s drive from Denver.

It?s encircled by the Swan Mountain and the Gore and Ten Mile Mountain ranges. The Reservoir covers 3,300 acres with 25 miles of pine-forested shoreline. This makes it a perfect location to experience nature just outside of the city and enjoy both the water and the mountains!

What is the History of Dillon Reservoir?

Dillon Reservoir is owned & operated by the Denver Water Board, and it is the largest water storage facility for the organization.

The Dillon Dam was built between 1961 and 1963, with the reservoir being filled with water for the first time in 1964.

Water is diverted from the Blue River Basin through the Harold D. Roberts Tunnel under the Continental Divide into the South Platte River Basin and Denver?s storage facilities on the Front Range.

What Is There to Do at Dillon Reservoir?

The recreational facilities at Dillon Reservoir include:

  • Two full-service marinas ? Dillon and Frisco Bay
  • Two boat launching sites
  • National forest campgrounds for R.V. and tent camping

Boating and fishing are two of the most popular activities on Dillon Reservoir, but there?s a lot more to explore. There are 325 campsites for camping, 12 miles of paved trails within the Dillon Recreation Area for hiking or bicycling, and designated areas for waterfowl hunting.

What Are Some Rules & Regulations at Dillon Reservoir?

There are a few rules and regulations for everyone to follow at Dillon Reservoir for personal safety and to protect the area. Here are a few things to be aware of:

  • There is a 30-mph speed limit for all boat vessels traveling on the water
  • Wakeboarding, waterskiing, paraskiing, paragliding, and parasailing are prohibited
  • Campfires are only allowed to campsite locations where fireplace grills and fire rings have been provided
  • Is Dillon Reservoir dog friendly? Pets are allowed, but must be kept on a leash and cleaned up after.
  • Due to cold temperatures, wading and swimming in the water is prohibited

The Summit County Sherriff?s Department patrols the water surface and campgrounds to enforce these rules and ensure the safety of all those who visit Dillon Reservoir.

What?s the Best Way to See Dillon Reservoir?

Adventure Paddle Tours offers guided kayak tours out of the Frisco Bay Marina on the Dillon Reservoir.

Our expert guides can help you navigate through the waters and see the mountains, wildlife, and experience the beautiful scenery the area has to offer. Our tours are true eco tours that are rooted in conservation, designed for small groups to give you that intimate nature experience.

We have a range of tours available to suit your groups needs! Click here to take a look at our guided kayak tours offered in the Dillon Reservoir and book with us today.

Planning a Weekend Trip to Lake Dillon

Looking for the perfect weekend getaway in Colorado this summer? Lake Dillon is located in the heart of Summit County Colorado, which is just over an hour away from Denver, making it the perfect location to escape to the mountains for the weekend and enjoy the warm summer weather.

As local experts in the area, we have the ultimate guide to the steps you need to take to plan the perfect weekend trip on Lake Dillon.

Find Lodging

Before you take the weekend trip to Lake Dillon, you have to find a place to stay for the weekend.

If you want to experience things like a local, try to find an Airbnb or VRBO around Summit County ? there?s many options for condos or homes that you can rent out, with a variety of numbers of bedrooms depending on the size of your group.

If you don?t want to go that route, there?s a number of hotels in the area ranging from cheaper motels if you want to keep it simple, to luxury hotels if you want a more high end experience. Because summer is a busy season in this area, we recommend booking in advance to get the best deals.

Packing List

If you?re just taking a weekend trip, you can pack light, but there are a few essentials you don?t want to forget. Summer temperatures are usually predictable, but thunderstorms can come through in the summer, so it?s important to pack layers and have all the fundamentals you need for you outdoor adventures.

When it comes to clothing, you want to make sure you have everything you need to brave the outdoors depending on the weather.

We recommend packing hiking shorts, short sleeved shirts, long pants, long sleeve shirts, a waterproof jacket, comfortable walking shoes, broken in hiking shoes, bathing suit, sunglasses, and a wide brim hat.

Of course, you want to bring all your normal toiletries like toothbrushes, deodorant, and shampoo and conditioner, but don?t forget a high SPF sunscreen, lip balm, aloe lotion, and bug spray. Some electronics essentials to bring are a camera to document your adventures, a flashlight, extra batteries, an external phone charger.

Plan Your Weekend Activities

Our latest blog post outlines some of the best activities for you to do on Lake Dillon. Some of the things you can do include a fishing trip, sailing lesson, camping, hiking, mountain biking and more.

Because your time is so limited on a weekend trip, we recommend sitting down with your group and putting together an itinerary of the activities you want to do while your there. Decide the top things you want to do and book the activities in advance so your plans are set, and you can make the most of your weekend trip.

Book A Guided Kayak Tour with Adventure Paddle Tours

Kick off your weekend trip on Lake Dillon by taking a guided kayak tour through the Dillon Reservoir with Adventure Paddle Tours!

We offer a range of guided kayak tours that can fit different size groups and different experience levels. Our guides are also experts in the area that can give you a true local experience and can give you recommendations on more things to do and see around the area. Book a tour today to get the best Lake Dillon weekend experience.