Sweetwater Lake on Track to Become Colorado’s Newest State Park

On October 20, 2021, Governor Jared Polis announced the creation of a new state park at Sweetwater Lake. Located in Garfield county, Sweetwater Lake is a beautiful oasis home to one of the largest natural lakes in Colorado and the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.

“Colorado Parks and Wildlife is excited to modernize facilities and provide updated and sustainable recreational services through this partnership. Our main priority is to conserve the unique character of the area while improving access to this incredible property,” said CPW director Dan Prenzlow. 

A Look at Sweetwater Lake

Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Governor Jared Polis, Eagle Valley Land Trust, U.S. Forest Service, White River National Forest, Ellie Sullum

Photo courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife

The park comes through a partnership between CPW, the U.S. Forest Service (White River National Forest) and Eagle Valley Land Trust. White River National Forest bought the 488-acre ranch in accordance with national land conservation efforts through The Conservation Fund (TCF). Organizations like TCF operate by buying private land and turning it into public lands, often for conservation, land protection and recreation purposes. 

Sweetwater Lake is now protected public land. Under management from CPW, Sweetwater Lake is on its way to become Colorado’s 43rd state park. CPW officials intend to provide sustainable recreation opportunities for visitors.

“Sweetwater Lake is simply gorgeous and has great potential for even more recreational opportunities like a campground. This is the first of its kind partnership in Colorado to create a state park on U.S. Forest Service land, and we look forward to working with our partners and Coloradans with the ultimate goal of adding Sweetwater Lake to Colorado’s world-class state park system for fun, conservation, education and to support job growth for the region,” said Governor Jared Polis in a statement.

Expanding Land Conservation

Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Eagle Valley Land Trust, U.S. Forest Service, Ellie Sullum

Photo courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Colorado is home to two large industries that face a conflict of interest: land conservation/recreation and drilling for oil and gas. Still, land conservationists remain steadfast in their efforts to protect Colorado’s mountains, lakes, forests, deserts, plains and wildlife. The state now has 22 million acres of public land, comprising an entire third of the landmass in Colorado. In the past, Sweetwater Lake was considered for residential and golf course development. Now, the U.S. Forest Service and CPW have the resources to maintain Sweetwater Lake and open it for public enjoyment.

“Sweetwater Lake is a hidden gem, both as a destination and gateway to the Flat Top Wilderness. The partnership formed to protect and manage this unique landscape is an extension of the state and federal commitment to shared stewardship, which the Governor and U.S.D.A. initiated in 2019,” said Dan Gibbs, executive director of Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

Enhancing Recreation Opportunities

Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Governor Jared Polis, Eagle Valley Land Trust, U.S. Forest Service, Ellie Sullum, White River National Forest

Photo courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Adding a new state park provides exciting recreation opportunities for locals and visitors. Proposed activities include a boat launch, picnic areas, camping and hiking. 

In addition to the creation of a new state park, Governor Polis signed the Keep Colorado Wild Pass bill over the summer. Sponsored by state senators Kerry Donovan and Stephen Fenberg, the bill provides a low-cost state park pass option to expand outdoor recreation opportunities for more Coloradans.

Sweetwater Lake State Park will open to the public for initial recreation opportunities by June 1, 2022.