Ridgway State Park's swim beach is now just a big sandbox as low water has forced park officials to close the area to swimming. How that happens reveals the secret of why Ridgway has such a great beach.

All the sand that lines the shore and creates a great bottom for the swim area didn't occur naturally, it was constructed, just like the dam was built to create the reservoir.

Without getting into the complex details, the swim area only extends a certain distance into the lake. What you don't see when swimming is rip-rap (a lot of rocks piled up) that keeps the sand from washing out into the lake and the water safe to swim in. Beyond that is a big drop to the lake bottom. Now, you know the secret of Ridgway beach.

You can still wade in the water and play on the beach - there's plenty of sand - but there's not enough water for safe swimming.

The upside is the boat ramp is open because it extends a long way into the reservoir. The low water also makes the lake friendlier to canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards. Launching non-motorized watercraft from the Dallas Creek area of the reservoir is your best bet. Novice and beginner stand up paddleboarders will find the water ideal to practice and learn.

I talked with Colorado Parks and Wildlife Southwest Region Public Information Officer, Joe Lewandowski and he says the water level in the reservoir is dropping at a rate of up to four inches per day. He also said the low water hasn't had a huge effect on people camping. So, if you're planning on camping at Ridgway, making a campsite reservation is a good idea.

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