Built in the sixties, Blue Mesa is the largest reservoir in Colorado. With a shoreline several miles long, the water is a mecca for recreationists who swim, fish, boat and waterski. Even in winter, the area is a popular location for ice fishing, ice skating, and cross-country skiing. Recreation is not the only use of the water. It is also the lifeblood for farmers and ranchers downstream who depend on it for irrigation.

The small settlement of Iola, one of the Gunnison Basin’s early gold mining camps, was flooded with the construction of the reservoir. Residents had to move after their land was purchased by the government. When the water level is low in the reservoir, especially in the early spring, some of the old house foundations and corrals can still be seen.

24 Blue Mesa Reservoir flikr dbking ccby20
24 Blue Mesa Reservoir, Photo courtesy flikr dbking cc-by-20

Iola DenverPublicLibrary
Iola, courtesy Denver Public Library

blue mesa

Silver Curecanti


Credits and Acknowledgments

The research, writing and production of this interpretive booklet were made possible by grants from the following generous organizations: Federal Highway Administration Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), colorado Historical Society, Western Colorado Interpretive Association (WCIA), Hinsdale County Lodging Tax Panel, Lake City Chamber of Commerce, the Creede and Mineral County Chamber of Commerce, the Silver Thread Scenic and Historic Byway Council, and the Rio Grande Watershed Emergency Action Coordination Team. Special thanks to Grant Houston of the Hinsdale County Historical Society, Lynna Jackson of Creede, Nancy Houston, and the authors, Laurene Farley and Sandy Thompson of the U.S. Forest Service, Gunnison, Colorado. Layout and design update by B4 Studio, Creede.