Elkhead Reservoir east of Craig opened to the public about two weeks ago. In addition to the expansion project of the past two years, officials plan to add another beachfront, a boat ramp and between 30 to 50 campgrounds by the end of the summer.

file photo

Elkhead Reservoir east of Craig opened to the public about two weeks ago. In addition to the expansion project of the past two years, officials plan to add another beachfront, a boat ramp and between 30 to 50 campgrounds by the end of the summer.

Elkhead Reservoir open, new features planned for summer

— Although the sky is, at times, still dark and gray, and thermostats around town may fluctuate between a cold winter and a not-quite warm spring, Elkhead Reservoir is open for frolickers and fisherman.

And Steve Drake, a founding member of American Bass Anglers District 92 in Craig, is open and ready for the possibilities Elkhead might provide.

"I'm sure I'll be out there this year," he said. "Every chance I get."

At the moment, though, the weather is not cooperating with people's plans for summer to start early.

"The water's cold, and the weekends are snowy and rainy," said Ron Dellacroce, Yampa River State Park manager.

The reservoir has been pretty quiet - but not without sporadic visitors hanging out on the beach - since it reopened for the year about two weeks ago, Dellacroce said.

That's not what he expects when summer gets going.

"It's definitely a popular place," Dellacroce said. "Really close to town and lots for people to do."

Besides the large expansion project - which concluded last year and doubled the reservoir's water surface - there are additional features for visitors.

There's a new beach and boat ramp on the northeast side that will be ready mid-summer, Dellacroce said. Between 30 to 50 new campground sites are planned for Elkhead, as well, most of which will be finished late in the year.

These improvements were done with the city of Craig's annual $15,000 contribution to the reservoir and about $1 million from Colorado State Parks, Dellacroce said.

There should be room for everybody, he said.

The extra surface water "gives the opportunity for people that like to fish to get out of the traffic, the other boats and the jet skis and stuff," Dellacroce said.

That will be good news to anglers such as Drake and his American Bass Anglers partner, Don Eriksen.

Both said they were sorry state officials pulled longer smallmouth bass out of local rivers to put in Elkhead, but they're looking forward to seeing what this year's fishing at the reservoir would be like.

"I'm pretty optimistic it's going to be pretty good this year," Drake said.

Eriksen remembered Elkhead's fishing to be pretty good for the area before the expansion started.

"I did fish that quite a bit," he said. "Bass are excellent eating fish."

American Bass Anglers plans to hold two, one-day tournaments at Elkhead in August. Drake said the group usually gets 20 to 35 anglers for each event.

Park officials have been restocking the reservoir after the new Elkhead Dam was completed last year, Dellacroce said. Fish populations dwindled after officials lowered the reservoir waters to work on the dam.

Officials hope to have healthy populations of smallmouth bass, crappie, trout, some catfish and others.

The last time Elkhead saw any major construction improvements before the recent expansion was about 20 years ago, Dellacroce said.

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