Water may reach San Luis Lake this year — the Valley Courier

San Luis Lake via the National Park Service
San Luis Lake via the National Park Service

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

San Luis Lake may see some changes in the future and hopefully some water.

The lake, located west of the Great Sand Dunes National Park, has been dry in recent years with not enough snowmelt to float a boat.

Rio Grande Water Conservation District General Manager Steve Vandiver, who served as division engineer in the Valley for many years, said the lake was dry when he came to the Valley 40 years ago, and since that time it has filled and gone dry more than once. He said it’s been dry now for a number of years “primarily because there hasn’t been any natural inflow into the lake.”

He added that San Luis Lake is a terminus lake, and if there isn’t inflow from a natural source, there’s no way to fill it up otherwise. The lake relies on inflow from sources such as Sand Creek to fill up the reservoir. Vandiver added that losses from evaporation are also significant.

He said generally the water from Sand Creek hits the wetlands area first , then Head Lake and then the excess goes into San Luis Lake. He said this year Colorado Parks and Wildlife plans to allow more of the water from the creek to get to San Luis Lake.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Area Wildlife Manager Rick Basagoitia explained that part of the lake is a state park and another portion is a state wildlife area, with each managed by different entities. There’s a move, he said, to make the entire lake part of the state wildlife area. He said boating, fishing and camping would still be allowed, although that is not the primary focus of a wildlife area, because the San Luis Lake campground is an overflow camping area for the dunes.

“We would probably still accommodate some of that but not to the extent Parks did,” he said.

He said the biggest attraction for recreation is the lake, but in recent years there has not been enough water to get to the lake.

With more water diverted to the lake, and water already running at the dunes, folks are hopeful the lake might start to recover.

Sand Dunes Superintendent Lisa Carrico said with the additional snow on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains recently, park staff are hopeful Medano Creek will provide a good flow through the dunes.

More Rio Grande River Basin coverage here.

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