Aspinall Unit Recreation
Since 1965, the Aspinall Unit lands have been managed by the National Park Service as the Curecanti National Recreation Area (NRA), although Congress has not designated the area as such. The National Park Service and Reclamation are currently preparing a joint recommendation to Congress that includes designation of the area as the Curecanti National Recreation Area.
The NRA encompasses approximately 41,972 acres surrounding the three Aspinall Unit reservoirs on the Gunnison River and borders the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park on the west. The NRA was established to provide for conservation of the scenic, natural, historic, archeological, and wildlife values of this area while providing for public use and enjoyment.
Unique aspects of the Curecanti NRA include the recent discovery of dinosaur fossils, a 5,000 acre archeological district, and traces of 6,000 year-old dwellings representing some of the oldest villages found in North America. Approximately one million visitors a year enjoy the scenery and recreation activities available in the NRA which include camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, sight-seeing, and water-based activities.
The unique character of each of the three Aspinall Unit reservoirs provides visitors a different boating experience. Twenty mile-long Blue Mesa Reservoir is the largest body of water in Colorado and one of the largest high-altitude bodies of water in the United States. It is also home to the largest kokanee salmon fishery in the United States. The three open basins, and several arms of Blue Mesa Reservoir, provide a diverse range of water recreation opportunities including sailboating, windsurfing, water skiing, and cold-water fishing. The Soap Creek, Cebolla, and Lake Fork arms offer visitors a wonderful remote boating experience.
The high-quality trout fishing and unique canyon environment found at Morrow Point and Crystal Reservoirs draw fishing enthusiasts from across the country. Morrow Point Reservoir is a popular location for canoeing and kayaking because of the spectacular canyon scenery and the journey which begins swiftly for the first half-mile and then becomes still and calm for the remaining 11 ½ miles. Only hand carried water craft can be used on these two reservoirs because of limited access via canyon trails. The Pine Creek Trail leads visitors to the upper end of Morrow Point Reservoir and the upper end of Crystal Reservoir can be reached via Mesa Creek Trail located near Cimarron.
The National Park Service offers a 1 ½ hour round trip pontoon boat tour beginning at Morrow Point through the upper Black Canyon of the Gunnison, guided by a park ranger. Up to 42 passengers can be accommodated on the tour which begins at the Pine Creek boat dock.