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LOVELAND - With the 2021 boating season now open at Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake Reservoir, public safety is the top priority on the water this spring for Larimer County Natural Resources (LCDNR). In 2020, each reservoir experienced an approximate 30% increase in day-use visitation, while simultaneously experiencing a 40% increase over 2019 in Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) boat inspections.  

To keep all recreators safe on the water, LCDNR is designating Satanka Bay, the northern cove at Horsetooth Reservoir, as a wakeless "Paddlecraft Only Zone.” The west side of Satanka Bay is closed to motorized boats (limited to paddlecrafts only), while the east side and the remainder of Horsetooth Reservoir remains open to motorized boats.

In response to record visitation in 2020 and the exponential rise in paddlecraft concentration at Horsetooth over the last five years, LCDNR has implemented this management practice to separate recreation use, which will ensure greater safety of all visitors on the water. The ‘Paddlecraft Only Zone’ will allow paddlers to not intermingle with motorized boats. Paddlecrafts include paddle boards, canoes, and kayaks.

“This separation of boaters and paddlecrafts is an effort to increase public safety while decreasing rescue response due to high visitation and the increased number of paddlers on the water at the reservoir,” said Mark Caughlan, Horsetooth Reservoir District Manager.

Motorized boats can launch via the Satanka boat ramp beginning May 1. Launching of paddlecrafts (paddleboards, kayaks, canoes) will occur to the south west of the boat ramp. Buoys mark the dividing line for the designated use areas.

Larimer County Natural Resources is recommending caution as boaters/paddlers and anglers approach spring waters for recreation. Other safety guidelines include:

  • Be sure to have the required number and correct type of personal flotation devices (PFD) 
  • Children 12 and under are required by law to wear a PFD at all times.
  • Paddlers must have a whistle at all times.
  • Before you arrive, check the forecast. Be ready for sudden high winds and springtime weather changes.
  • Tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return.  
  • Despite warm air temperature, spring water is deceptively cold (high 30s-low 40s) - increasing the risk of hypothermia. Bring extra layers of clothing and rain gear.
  • Wear sunscreen and avoid alcohol.
  • Be respectful of other vessels on the water.
  • Know and understand all the laws of any body of water you plan to fish, boat, or paddle.  

Maximum crowding experienced in 2020 coupled with no designated entrance or exit for paddlecrafts led to increased near-misses, injury, and paddler rescues at Horsetooth Reservoir. The state of Colorado experienced its deadliest year of drownings in the summer of 2020 with a total of 29 lives lost.

For Satanka FAQs and current ramp hours, please visit

About Larimer County Department of Natural Resources
Natural Resources manages Larimer County’s great outdoor places, including magnificent open spaces and water-based recreation areas, and fosters responsible land stewardship through weed management and healthy forest practices. To learn more, visit

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Carter Lake Reservoir
Published on: 
Thursday, April 1, 2021 - 9:57am
Contact Details:

Daylan Figgs, Director
Larimer County Natural Resources
(970) 619-4570

Mark Caughlan, Horsetooth Reservoir District Manager
Larimer County Natural Resources
(970) 498-5600

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