Horsetooth Reservoir

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Horsetooth Reservoir
Location Larimer County, Colorado
Coordinates 40°33′16″N 105°09′21″W / 40.55436°N 105.15591°W / 40.55436; -105.15591Coordinates: 40°33′16″N 105°09′21″W / 40.55436°N 105.15591°W / 40.55436; -105.15591
Type reservoir
Basin countries United States
Max. depth 200 ft (61 m)
Water volume 156,735 acre·ft (0.193330 km3)
Surface elevation 5,430 ft (1,660 m)
View near Horsetooth

Horsetooth Reservoir (often known locally as Horsetooth) is a large reservoir in southern Larimer County, Colorado just west of the city of Fort Collins, Colorado. The reservoir sits in the foothills above the town on the western side of the Dakota Hogback, which contains the reservoir along its eastern side. The reservoir runs north-south for approximately 6.5 miles (10 km), and is approximately one-half mile (1 km) wide. The reservoir was constructed in 1949 by the Bureau of Reclamation as part of its federal Colorado-Big Thompson Project or "C-BT." Water distribution is currently managed by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Bureau of Reclamation . Horsetooth and Carter Lake serve as the two principal containers for water diverted eastward under the continental divide via the C-BT.

The reservoir is a supplementary source of municipal water for Fort Collins and other communities in the region, as well as for irrigation in the South Platte River valley. The reservoir takes its name from Horsetooth Mountain, a summit in the foothills west of the southern end of the reservoir.


The construction of the reservoir inundated the community of Stout. Prior to construction, the majority of the town moved to a location that today surrounds Horsetooth's South Bay, but a few building foundations, including that of the old school house, are now under water. The reservoir has a capacity of 156,735 acre feet (193,330,000 m3), a total shoreline of 25 miles (40 km). The reservoir is located roughly at 40°33′16″N 105°09′21″W / 40.55436°N 105.15591°W / 40.55436; -105.15591. In recent history the reservoir has experienced relatively low water levels, but in 2014 experienced record highs. It reached 98.6% of its capacity in June 2014, the highest it has been in four years.


Horsetooth Reservoir was created by the construction of four separate large earthen dams, all completed in 1949 and all modernized with a seismic retrofit in 2000-2004.[1] The four dams, listed from north to south, are:

  • Horsetooth Dam, which closes the northern end of the reservoir, with a height of 155 feet
  • Soldier Canyon Dam, 226 feet high
  • Dixon Canyon Dam, 240 feet high
  • Spring Canyon Dam, 220 feet high

Taken together the dams contain more than 10 million cubic yards of earthfill.[2]

Recreation & Conservation[edit]

The reservoir is a popular recreation destination for the region. According to a recent study conducted by Reclamation and the recreation manager at Horsetooth, Larimer County Parks and Open Lands, approximately 570,000 visitors come to Horsetooth every year. Surrounded by 1,900 acres of public lands[3] Larimer County has provided recreation management at Horsetooth, and three other C-BT reservoirs, since they opened in the early 1950s.

Recreational boating is popular during summer months and swimming is allowed at the specifically designated Swim Beach maintained by LCPOL as well as in some of the coves. Kayaking and canoeing is also popular. Fishing is also highly popular from boats or from shore, but is no longer allowed from the dams due to security concerns. Since the late 1960s, the sport of bouldering has become an established climbing pastime at the reservoir, the hard Dakota sandstone providing many challenging problems for both American and foreign athletes. However cliff diving is prohibited in all areas of the reservoir due to safety concerns. Park rangers patrol the reservoir for violators to keep everyone enjoying the reservoirs safely.[4] Road cycling around Horsetooth has also become popular as has hiking and mountain biking, particularly along the Foothills Trail that traverses the reservoir's eastern edge. The City of Fort Collins maintains several open spaces directly below the reservoir and the state-owned Lory State Park is along the reservoir's northwestern shore.

Other ridge lines surrounding the reservoir have become the site of residential development in recent decades, with structures ranging from get-away-cabins to luxury homes.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Horsetooth Reservoir". The Official Website of Larimer County. Retrieved 2014-10-21. 
  4. ^ "Horsetooth Reservoir". Parks and Open Lands. The Official Website of Larimer County. Retrieved 21 October 2014. 

External links[edit]