Echo Canyon Reservoir drained 5 feet below spillway for dam repairs

2020/12/Echo-Canyon-Reservoir-SWA1-1-300x222.jpg Map courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife
To access Echo Canyon Reservoir State Wildlife Area from Pagosa Springs, go 1 mile east on U.S. 160 to U.S. 84, then 4 miles south to the sign and access road on the right.

By Simone Mounsamy

Staff Writer

Four miles south from Pagosa Springs on U.S. 84 lies Echo Canyon Reservoir State Wildlife Area, 211 acres of state land, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). Water supplied by spring runoff from Echo Canyon Creek leaves the reservoir and drains into the San Juan River south of town.

According to the CPW website, there is a dam at the west end and the water is normally maintained at full level throughout the year. 

The reservoir has recently been drained, however, to 5 feet below the dam spillway.

CPW Southwest Region Public Information Officer Joe Lewandowski informed The SUN that during a routine inspection of the dam in late October, “A crack in the earthen dam at Echo Reservoir was discovered.”

He explained that CPW’s dam safety engineers worked with Division of Water Resources (DWR) dam safety engineers to control the water level drawdown, and have filled and covered the crack. 

According to Lewandowski, dam safety engineers will continue to monitor the embankment over winter. Though the crack has been reported to be stable, CPW is working with DWR to determine future measures that would ensure the integrity of the dam embankment. 

“That process will take several months and there is no timeline,” Lewandowski stated.

Echo Canyon Reservoir remains open, however. 

Lewandowski noted that “fishing would be difficult now because mud flats are exposed and not yet frozen,” but the recreational hatchery does remain open for fishing, he explained.

“As colder weather sets in it will be open for ice fishing. Anglers are asked to exercise caution when venturing onto the ice,” Lewandowski advised.

CPW will keep the community informed on the status of the reservoir.