The 26-acre Ward Creek Reservoir was formed in 1955 by harnessing the current of Ward Creek. Although the reservoir is a popular fishing and hiking destination with public access, the dam is privately owned and privately maintained by the Surface Creek Ditch and Reservoir Company. The water is retained solely for agricultural use.
Ward Creek Reservoir is an important part of the Surface Creek Valley irrigation system since it serves as a “pressure dam” which impacts the flow of creeks and ditches that carry water originating on Grand Mesa to farmlands and orchards and vineyards on the southern flanks of the mesa.
As for the fish inhabiting the reservoir when it was drained, many made their way downstream in Ward Creek which continued to flow while dam repairs were completed. Other fish were stranded in the mud or shallow water and quickly harvested by Grand Mesa bears, eagles and osprey raptors. No word yet from Colorado Parks and Wildlife about when and whether the reservoir will be restocked.
Meanwhile, plans to drain Carson Lake for dam repairs are proceeding. Carson Lake is part of the domestic water supply for Grand Junction. In a September interview, Lee Cooper, engineer for the City of Grand Junction, said he hoped the most necessary dam repairs at Carson can be completed between June and October of 2020.
The work is critical because the Carson dam — which was finished in 1948 — is classified as a “high hazard dam.” A high hazard classification is assigned to any dam which presents a potential loss of life downstream. “With the development that’s been going on downstream of Carson in the Kannah Creek drainage,” Cooper said, “it’s definitely a high hazard dam.”
While Carson dam is under repair in 2020, the adjacent campground will be closed as will portions of trail access. The joint GMUG and City of Grand Junction announcement includes a map and provides further information regarding how various trails in the affected area can be accessed stating that “In 2020, the public can access the Carson Lake Trail (728) and Kannah Creek Trail (706) from Flowing Park Road (Forest Service Road 109). The Coal Creek Trail (702) can be accessed from the Deep Creek Cutoff Trail (701) which begins 1.5 miles to the west of the entrance to the Carson Lake Recreation Area.”
“We want to get the word out,” said Cooper, “so that hunters that hunt in that unit and other recreation users are aware that access to Carson Reservoir will be closed for construction and dam improvements next summer and fall.”