Way back in the 1960s, driving a big station wagon stuffed full of kids, a couple of dogs, heavy canvas camping equipment and a big metal cooler along with a boat trailer in tow only meant one thing. Some lucky family was going on a week long vacation at the lake! Spending some time at the lake is a traditional thing to do during the summer season and when members of this crowd mention what they plan to do on vacation, they nearly always just say, “We are going to the lake!” It is the job of the listener to figure out which lake that is being talked about most times, because boaters rarely will rarely reveal their secret little lakeside getaway spot!
Some people have their own favorite lakeside campground or cabin that their family has visited every summer for many generations. When the announcement is made at home about how it is vacation time, often the first thing that is heard from the kids is “Wow! … I hope we going back to our lake!” The favorite lake is not just a lake when talked about by a family, because it is always referred as being “our lake and nobody else’s!” It is easy to see that members of the lake vacation crowd do get a bit territorial and this protective nature has always been part of the lakeside destination game.
For people that are cooped up in the big city all year long or for those who are locked up in an endless suburban routine, a vacation at the lake is an escape like no other. There are no tall buildings or traffic jams. There is no strict schedule or bills to worry about. There is only cool blue water, fresh air, sunshine and the call of the wild. A few hours at the lake is enough to provide stress relief and a week long vacation at the lake is enough to rejuvenate the most tired worn out soul.
Just like back east, the popular lake destinations out west are usually located well away from civilization in remote wilderness areas. The difference is that the western wilderness areas nearly stretch out forever and the drive to the destination can take all day, especially when towing a camper trailer or boat over the mountainous terrain. Some say that half of the fun is just getting there and the wild west scenery definitely makes the long drive all the better.
Some of the well known western bodies of water, like Lake Tahoe, Lake Powell or Lake Mead have hundreds of miles of shoreline, so these places rarely seem crowded even on a holiday weekend. There are plenty of lesser known lakes out west that offer plenty of elbow room too. Many of the less visited lakes are located in majestic mountain landscapes. These bodies of water are remote enough to cause visitors to feel like they are the only ones there. If solitude or some extra breathing room is a high priority, then venturing to a remote lake in the mountain west is the way to go.
Of course there is a middle ground for western lake destinations too. There are lakes in the west that are located along major travel routes that are large enough to not be crowded, while still being small enough to make navigating small craft relatively easy to do. Blue Mesa Lake is one such destination and it is conveniently located along old Highway 50 in the majestic Colorado Rocky Mountains!
Blue Mesa Lake is one of three alpine lakes in the Curecanti National Recreation Area. The three lakes in Curecanti are actually reservoirs created by dams on the Gunnison River. U.S. Highway 50 runs through the Curecanti National Recreation Area and it crosses Blue Mesa Lake on a causeway that is just a few feet above the waterline. The views overlooking Blue Mesa Lake from the highway are truly breathtaking to see and it is very easy to picture this place as being a great summer vacation spot.
Blue Mesa Lake is surrounded by towering rock outcrops, deep canyons, rolling hills and mountain peaks. The air is crystal clear and the skies are nearly always cobalt blue in this pristine high elevation environment. As far as summertime lake vacation destinations are concerned, Blue Mesa Lake is as picturesque as it gets!
The surface of the Blue Mesa Lake is over 7,000 feet above sea level, so it may take time to get adjusted to the thin air. Altitude sickness can occur during physical exertion, so it pays to slow down when the first sign of dizziness occurs, in order to avoid blacking out. Staying hydrated and snacking is the best way to prevent altitude sickness, so it is advisable to drink more water than normal in the high dry mountain air conditions.
The water temperature of Blue Mesa Lake is very cold in early summer, but by the month of August the water warms up a bit. Even so, swimming for an extended time is not recommended, because the combination of cold water and thin mountain air may put swimmers at risk of hypothermia. This does not mean that visitors cannot have fun playing in the water, because these conditions are what wet-suits are made for. Blue Mesa Lake is a haven for water skiing, jet skiing and sailboarding. The fishing on this lake is great too, because this lake is very deep and there are many pocket coves that are perfect for fly fishermen.
There are picnic areas, primitive campgrounds, lodges and boat landings located at several sites around the lake. Watercraft rentals of every kind can be found in the area too. There are Jeep trails that go to more campsites in the mountainous back country and some of the longer trails go to the neighboring Gunnison Gorge Conservation Area. The historic town of Montrose and Gunnison are both just a short hop away and these two basecamp towns are where visitors can find modern amenities, rentals and places to stock up on gear.
August is when the water at Blue Mesa Lake is relatively warm, but this will not last for long. The seasons change quickly in the high elevations, so there will not be much time before snow drapes the mountain peaks in mid autumn. The change of seasons usually bring high winds and this is good to be aware of, especially if spending a week floating on a houseboat is in the plans.
Blue Mesa Lake is one of those scenic places that can cause a traveler to stop on the side of the road and say, “I sure would like to spend some time here whenever I get some time off from the job!” If a summer vacation at a pristine lakeside destination in the Rocky Mountains is long overdue, then Blue Mesa Lake should most definitely be moved up to the number one spot on the list of places to dream about!
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