Carson Lake Level Lowered – Will Not be Fully Drained This Year – Fish Bag Limits Still Lifted

Carson Dam with lowered waterline

The City of Grand Junction had previously planned to fully drain Carson Lake on the Grand Mesa in anticipation of a City dam upgrade project. The project, which will span three years and three phases, will upgrade the dam which was constructed in 1947.

Initial analysis by the engineering consultant contracted to perform the work has determined that it is not necessary to fully drain the lake to complete initial investigation work which includes drilling six boreholes and installing water level sensors in the dam crest and along the downstream toe of the dam.

Drilling boreholes in dam

Three boreholes were completed in the crest of the dam. After encountering rock during installation of the first boreholes, the engineering consultant recommended a second round to complete the three remaining downstream boreholes using a different type of drill rig. This work was conducted the week of September 17.

In preparation for the drilling work, staff lowered the level of the lake 10 feet as required by the State Dam Engineer for safety reasons. This water was captured in the lower Juniata Reservoir.

Given the current extreme drought conditions, deferring draining the lake has the added benefit of minimizing the amount of water loss due to evaporation since Carson Lake has a lower evaporation rate than Juniata Reservoir.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife previously lifted the bag and possession limit for all fish in Carson Lake and this remains in effect. Following conversations with City personnel and based on the City’s revised project timeline, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has determined that the continuation of the lifted bag and possession limits at Carson Lake is in the angling public’s best interest. Colorado Parks and Wildlife will re-evaluate when the appropriate time will be to reinstate bag and possession limits for Carson Lake, and the public will be notified of these changes.

All fish must be caught legally per Colorado Parks and Wildlife fishing regulations. All regulations other than bag and possession limit will still apply and all anglers must have a valid Colorado fishing license with them while fishing. No boats or flotation devices are allowed in the lake. More information about fishing, including fishing regulations, is available on the CPW website.

Carson Lake is located in the Kannah Creek Basin and is accessed from Lands End Road. Upgrade of the dam is due to the development that has taken place downstream from the reservoir. There is currently no damage to the dam nor any danger; the upgrade is a proactive measure to assure efficacy into the future.

In 2019, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is not planning to restock Carson Lake with fish, and the engineering firm will begin work on construction specifications. In 2020, the lake will be drained completely in spring/early summer for construction. In the spring of 2021, the lake will be refilled. Colorado Parks and Wildlife anticipates stocking Carson Lake sometime in 2021, but that decision will be contingent on the project being completed, and environmental conditions of the lake.

While Carson Lake is a popular fishing location on the Grand Mesa, there are hundreds of alternative lakes on the Grand Mesa that offer a variety of fishing opportunities. Anglers can find other places to fish on the Grand Mesa, and other areas of Colorado by utilizing the Fishing Atlas on the CPW website.

For general information related to the dam, contact Sam Rainguet, City of Grand Junction Communications Manager, at 970-244-1507 or

For general information related to fishing, contact Colorado Parks and Wildlife at 970-255-6100.

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