Tuesday, January 31, 2012

McPhee Reservoir Snowshoeing

The McPhee Reservoir on the Dolores River is the second largest lake in Colorado. During the winter season when the water level is low, the north facing west end offers a broad slightly sloping area with an easy to access area for snowshoe hiking.

The access is about 4 miles west of Dolores, CO on Route 184, then north on the paved McPhee Recreation Area Road to the west end of the lake and the south side of the Great Cut Dike. There is room to park and a dirt road trail that leads to the shore line. This spot gets some use from bank fishermen during the summer months. On the west side of the Great Cut Dike is the pump house that sends irrigation water to the canals in the Montezuma Valley area.

The west end of the reservoir tends to freeze over sooner than the main channel area of the Dolores River. In the distance the San Miguel Mountains near Lizard Head Pass are visible. This area had a good snow layer for snowshoe hiking despite modest snow so far in 2012.

I spent part of my hike looking for animal tracks in the snow. I thought most of what I saw were coyote tracks in the area close to the vegetation near the high water mark. I didn’t see any water birds or any deer tracks, though deer are common in this area.

My total hike was for about 1:30 hours on a 44 F degree late January day. I hiked for about 1 mile east along the lake shore and returned. There is room to go much further than I did.

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