Lake San Cristobal

Lake San Cristobal is a lake in the U.S. state of Colorado. Located in the San Juan Mountains at an elevation of 9,003 feet (2,744 m), the freshwater lake is 2.1 miles (3.4 km) long, up to 89 feet (27 m) deep, has a surface area of 0.52 square miles (1.3 km2), and holds about 11,000 acre feet (14,000,000 m3) of water.[2] The town of Lake City, a few miles to the north, is named after Lake San Cristobal.[3] The name San Cristóbal means Saint Christopher in the Spanish language. Many old silver mines are near the lake and it is very clean and well kept, and stocked with Rainbow Trout.

Lake San Cristobal
Lake San Cristobal CO
LocationHinsdale County, Colorado
Coordinates37°58′15″N 107°17′27″W / 37.97083°N 107.29083°WCoordinates: 37°58′15″N 107°17′27″W / 37.97083°N 107.29083°W
Lake typeBarrier lake
Basin countriesUnited States
Max. length3.3 km (2.1 mi)
Surface area1.34 km2 (0.52 sq mi)
Max. depth27 m (89 ft)
Water volume14,000,000 m3 (490,000,000 cu ft)
Surface elevation2,744 m (9,003 ft)


Lake San Cristobal was formed about 700 years ago when the first Slumgullion Earthflow, a natural landslide, created a dam across the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River. Natural landslide dams are usually short-lived, but some have been known to fail after long periods—131 years in the case of Lake Yashinkul in the former Soviet Union. This prompted the United States Geological Survey to investigate the possibility that the Lake San Cristobal dam might fail. Based on its non-porous composition and the fact that part of the dam's natural spillway is actually cut into bedrock and not the material deposited by the landslide, the USGS concluded the dam is stable. Sediments washing down via the Lake Fork and Slumgullion Creek are slowly filling in the lake, but are not expected to affect the dam's stability. If sedimentation continues at the past rate, the lake will have completely filled with sediment in about 2,500 years.[2]


In the 1950s, the USGS studied Lake San Cristobal as a possible site for an artificial embankment dam. Such a dam would have been built near the present outlet and spanned the entire valley. This was rejected out of the concern that the upper, active part of the Slumgullion Earthflow could one day reach the dam site, and the possibility that the added pore pressure of the deeper water could reactivate the lower part of the slide.[2] Minor adjustments to the lake level have been made over the years. Hinsdale County constructed a small rock and wooden dam at the lake outlet in 1954, but it began to deteriorate by the 1970s.[4] As of 2009, the water level is controlled by the seasonal addition and removal of boulders at the lake outlet.[5] The county has proposed a modification of the outlet structure which would allow the controlled storage and release of up to 960 acre feet (1,180,000 m3) water.[5] According to an analysis submitted to the county, this will have a similar effect on the lake level as the previous practice.[4]


  1. ^ "Lake San Cristobal". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 13 October 1978. Retrieved 18 December 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d Schuster, Robert L. "Slumgullion Landslide Dam and its Effects on the Lake Fork". The Slumgullion Earth flow: A Large-Scale Natural Laboratory. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 18 December 2009.
  3. ^ Bright, William (2004). Colorado Place Names (3 ed.). Big Earth Publishing. p. 100. ISBN 1-55566-333-8.
  4. ^ a b Slattery, James E. (16 September 2008). "Water Right Yield and Marketable Yield Analysis for a Potential Lake San Cristobal Enlargement". Slattery Engineering. Retrieved 20 December 2009. (4.23 MB)
  5. ^ a b "The Lake San Cristobal Project". Hinsdale County Colorado Official Website. Hinsdale County, Colorado. Retrieved 20 December 2009.
Aiken Canyon Preserve

Aiken Canyon Preserve is a 1,621-acre (6.56 km2) Nature Conservancy-managed state property in Colorado. It is named after Charles Aiken, a U.S. surveyor and ornithologist. There is a four-mile (6 km)-loop hiking trail.Aiken Canyon is one of the state's Natural Areas and one of The Nature Conservancy protects, an effort that began more than 50 years ago. Its mission is to "preserve the plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life of Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive."

Arikaree River

The Arikaree River is a 156-mile-long (251 km) river in the central Great Plains of North America. It lies mostly in the American state of Colorado, draining land between the North and South Forks of the Republican River, and it flows into the North Fork in Nebraska after flowing a short distance through Kansas. It is a designated area within the Colorado Natural Areas Program to protect native and uncommon species that may be endangered or threatened.

Colorado Natural Areas Program

Colorado Natural Areas Program is a program of Colorado Parks and Wildlife that identifies and protects public, and in some cases private, areas with at least one unique or high-quality natural feature of statewide significance. It was established in 1977 by statute. There are 93 designated sites that in total protect more than 250 endangered, rare, or threatened species. Land management agreements are made with landowners concerning private property.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages the state parks system and the wildlife of the U.S. State of Colorado. The division currently manages the 41 state parks and 307 wildlife areas of Colorado.

The Colorado Natural Areas Program has 93 designated sites that in total protect more than 250 endangered, rare, or threatened species.

Durango, Colorado

Durango is the county seat and the most populous municipality of La Plata County, Colorado, United States. It is home to Fort Lewis College. The United States Census Bureau reported a population of 16,887 in the 2010 census.

Golden Fleece Mine (Colorado)

The Golden Fleece Mine is a gold mining site in Hinsdale County, Colorado, 5 miles (8 km) south of Lake City. The mine is located half a mile west of the north end of Lake San Cristobal. By 1904 it had produced $1,400,000 in silver and gold ore. The mine operated intermittently until 1919. Later, in the mid-1960s, some renewed interest in the property came up, especially in the Hiwassee lode area of the mine, but other than a couple of small test shipments, there is no recorded production until today.

The Golden Fleece Mine had much impact on the development of the whole area around Lake City. A description of the mine, with special emphasis on geological features, including photos and a profile map of the mine, was published by Thomas Arthur Rickard (Thomas Rickard was his cousin).

The Golden Fleece mine is also known for an unusual mineral, named hinsdalite (PbAl3(PO4)(SO4)(OH)6), which is a secondary phosphate mineral.

La Junta, Colorado

La Junta is the county seat and the most populous municipality of Otero County, Colorado, United States. The city population was 7,077 at the 2010 United States Census. La Junta is located on the Arkansas River in southeastern Colorado 68 miles (109 km) east of Pueblo.

Lake City, Colorado

The Town of Lake City is the Statutory Town that is the county seat and the only incorporated municipality in Hinsdale County, Colorado, United States. It is located in the San Juan Mountains in a valley formed by the convergence of Henson Creek and the headwaters of the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River about seven miles (11 km) east of Uncompahgre Peak, a Colorado fourteener.

Lake City is named after nearby Lake San Cristobal.

This area lies at the southern end of the Colorado Mineral Belt and when rich mineral deposits were discovered the native population was pushed from their tribal lands and the town of Lake City was incorporated in 1873.

With the completion of the first road into the mountains in this region, Lake City served as a supply center for the many miners and prospectors flooding into the area. As a supply center, the town boomed to as many as 3,000 to 5,000 settlers. But as the first-discovered deposits were found to be only moderately productive and no new extensive or rich deposits of minerals were found, by 1879 the boom had subsided. With the arrival of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in 1889, Lake City saw a second upturn in the economy that lasted into the 1890s. The railroad cut the cost of shipping gold and silver ores to smelters, reduced the cost of shipping supplies into Lake City, and provided shipment of cattle and sheep into the area for summer grazing in the high Alpine meadows.

By 1905, the mining era was over and Lake City entered a decades-long period of economic decline. Population figures hovered at 1,000 then dropped to 400 after 1910. Although mining continued throughout the twentieth century, it consisted primarily of exploration and speculation rather than productive operation. Beginning in 1915, visitors began coming to Lake City for the entire summer season and by the 1930s tourism had emerged as a viable industry.

The Hinsdale County Historical Society formed in 1973 and began accumulating documents and photographs recording the town's history. In 1978, the Lake City Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Residents have restored many of the boom town mining era buildings and currently promote tourism as an industry. Restoration has not only aided the local economy by making Lake City a desirable tourist destination, it has served economic development with preservation projects creating jobs for local carpenters, craftsmen, and contractors. The town population was 408 at the 2010 United States Census. Lake City's educational needs are served by the Lake City Community School.

Lake Fork Gunnison River

Lake Fork Gunnison River or Lake Fork is a 64.7-mile-long (104.1 km) tributary of the Gunnison River in Colorado. The river's source is Sloan Lake near Handies Peak in the San Juan Mountains of Hinsdale County. Lake Fork flows through Lake San Cristobal and Lake City before a confluence with the Gunnison River in Blue Mesa Reservoir.

List of Areas of Critical Environmental Concern in Colorado

The United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has designated 66 Areas of Critical Environmental Concern in the State of Colorado.

List of Colorado Natural Areas

The U.S. State of Colorado has designated 93 natural areas of the state for special protection. The Colorado Natural Areas Program was established in 1977 to preserve and protect special areas of the state with distinctive flora, fauna, ecological, geological, and paleontologic features.

List of Colorado state parks

This is a list of state parks in the Colorado State Parks system.

The Colorado State Parks system integrates outdoor recreation with tourism. There are currently forty-one parks open to the public, and there is one in development. Colorado State Parks host over eleven million visitors each year. Colorado State Parks celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2009.

This agency also takes lead in managing Colorado's boating, off-highway vehicle, snowmobile, river-outfitter licensing, and trails programs.

List of National Natural Landmarks in Colorado

The National Natural Landmarks in Colorado include 15 of the almost 600 National Natural Landmarks (NNLs) in the United States; fourteen fully within Colorado and one shared with Wyoming. They cover areas of geological, biological and historical importance, and include lakes, mountains, rock formations and numerous fossil sites. The landmarks are located in 13 of the state's 64 counties. Four counties each contain all or part of two NNLs, while two landmarks are split between two counties. The first two designations, Slumgullion Earthflow and Summit Lake, were made in 1965, while the most recent designation, the West Bijou Site, was made in 2016. Natural Landmarks in Colorado range from 60 to 380,000 acres (24.3 to 153,780.5 ha; 0.1 to 593.8 sq mi) in size. Owners include private individuals and several municipal, state and federal agencies.The National Natural Landmarks Program is administered by the National Park Service, a branch of the Department of the Interior. The National Park Service determines which properties meet NNL criteria and, after notifying the owners, makes nomination recommendations. The Secretary of the Interior reviews nominations and, based on a set of predetermined criteria, makes a decision on NNL designation or a determination of eligibility for designation. Both public and privately owned properties can be designated as NNLs. Owners may object to the nomination of the property as a NNL. This designation provides indirect, partial protection of the historic integrity of the properties via tax incentives, grants, monitoring of threats, and other means.

List of lakes in Colorado

The following is a partial alphabetical list of lakes and reservoirs in the U.S. State of Colorado.

Most of the larger lakes in Colorado are either reservoirs or dam-enhanced natural lakes.

Lone Mesa State Park

Lone Mesa State Park is a closed-access state park in Colorado. It is currently undergoing development and planning. The only allowed use is limited hunting with special permits.

Lower Lake Fork Valley, Colorado

The Lake Fork of the Gunnison River begins in high mountains in the western region of the U.S. state of Colorado, draining the northeastern part of the San Juan Mountains.

After passing through Lake San Cristobal, one of the larger natural lakes of Colorado, it is joined at Lake City by Henson Creek, and from there flows north. About 22 miles (35 km) north of Lake City, it enters the Lake Fork Canyon, and at the north end of the canyon, joins the Gunnison River just before it enters the Gunnison River canyon. For the purposes of this discussion, we will consider the lower Lake Fork Valley to be that part of the river between Lake City and the canyon.

The area is not unlike many other areas in the west. Early on, it was Ute Indian land and when white men began moving into the area, using places and resources of the Utes, there were conflicts. The discovery of gold in Colorado brought numbers of prospectors into the mountains. To deal with these problems, a treaty was signed in 1868, giving much of western Colorado to the Utes. However, gold continued to attract prospectors to the area and troubles continued. To deal with it, a group of Ute leaders were taken to Washington, D.C. in 1873, and under protest, they signed the Brunot treaty which opened a large portion of the San Juan Mountains to prospectors and mining.

Otto Mears, a man responsible for many of the railroads and roads in Colorado, hired Enos Hotchkiss to build a road into the Lake City area, from which it was to continue on to the west. Hotchkiss found gold near present Lake City in 1875, and the town was started. Thus began the era when minerals and mining defined much of the character of the Lake Fork area. Even at these early times, though, there were people who saw the beauty of the mountains and realized that the area had great resources for raising cattle, and so ranches, although secondary to mining, began. With more and more people in the area, there was need for mail and other services and the stagecoach became important. One of these stagecoach routes began at Sapinero, the small town at the intersection of the Lake Fork and the Gunnison Rivers. The route went up over Sapinero Mesa on the east side of the Lake Fork Canyon. A small stream called Johnson Gulch (after an early squatter who built a cabin there) runs from the east to the Lake Fork river, just above the canyon. The stage road dropped into Johnson Gulch and then down into the valley of the Lake Fork. From there it went 2 miles (3 km) to the south where a stage station and large barn were built at what was later called Barnum Station. From there, it continued up the Lake Fork valley to Lake City.

Only small amounts of minerals were able to be taken from the Lake City area in wagons and so pressure for a railroad developed. In 1881, the Denver and Rio Grande (D&RG) built a rail line into Gunnison and then continued to the west to Sapinero. Although a branch had been planned for Lake City, the lack of money delayed it. Finally, in 1879, it was completed. This was the end of the stagecoach in this area. The rail line came up the Lake Fork Canyon and at Johnson Gulch, a water tank was built to provide water for the steam engines. This was called Madera Siding. The rail line continued to the area below Barnum Station where holding corrals were built, and this was an important loading place for cattle which were then shipped to Sapinero and from there on east across Marshall Pass. The major use of the rail line, however, was to carry increasing mineral wealth from the Lake City area. Ranchers along the valley were also dependent on the train to bring mail and needed supplies.

As with so many other mining areas, the mines of Lake City began producing less and less. Finally in 1933, the rail line was making little money and was abandoned by the D&RG. The line was purchased and called the San Cristobal Railroad, and a galloping goose was built to run on the tracks and to take mail and other things to and from Lake City. The galloping goose was a combination between a car and a railway car, built on a Pierce-Arrow body. It used a gasoline engine and could be driven up the railroad tracks and carry mail and limited amounts of freight. This was never very successful, though, and the rail line was completely abandoned in 1939. By this time, there were automobile roads into the area, and mail was brought into the valley from Gunnison in this way.

Raton Mesa

Raton Mesa is the collective name of several mesas on the eastern side of Raton Pass in New Mexico and Colorado. The name Raton Mesa or Mesas has sometimes been applied to all the mesas that extend east for 90 miles (140 km) along the Colorado-New Mexico border from Raton, New Mexico and Trinidad, Colorado to the Oklahoma panhandle. These include Johnson Mesa, Mesa de Maya, and Black Mesa.The highest point of Raton Mesa, Fishers Peak, is located in Las Animas County, Colorado. The highest part of the mesa (4,183-acre (16.93 km2)) was made a National Natural Landmark in 1967. Raton mesas are volcanic in origin caused by lava flows which solidified into basalt. Over time the softer sedimentary rock surrounding the basalt eroded leaving several distinct large elevated tablelands with precipitous sides.Raton Mesa is part of the Raton Basin, a coal and natural gas producing region.

Slumgullion Earthflow

The Slumgullion Earthflow in the San Juan Mountains in Hinsdale County, Colorado has been a National Natural Landmark since 1983. It is also a Colorado Natural Area and an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.The earthflow, a slow moving landslide, crawled down the valley about 700 years ago creating the 4 miles (6.4 km) long and 2,000 feet (610 m) wide mass. The earthflow lies a few miles south east of Lake City. The landmark site covers 1,291 acres (522 ha) and is owned by the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. It is "a striking example of mass wasting (the movement of large masses of earth material)." Lake San Cristobal was dammed by the earthflow. A second earthflow has been moving continuously for about 300 years over older stable rock. It moves at a rate of about 7 meters (23 feet) per year.The area is a habitat for elk and deer. It is crossed by Colorado Highway 149, the principal highway of the area connecting Lake City, Colorado with Creede.

Uncompahgre Wilderness

The Uncompahgre Wilderness (formerly called the Big Blue Wilderness) is a U.S. Wilderness Area in southwest Colorado comprising 102,721 acres (415.70 km2). Elevation in the Wilderness ranges from 8,400 feet (2,600 m) to 14,309 feet (4,361 m), at the summit of Uncompahgre Peak.Managed by the Uncompahgre National Forest, it is located approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) northwest of the town of Lake City and some 10 miles (16 km) east of the town of Ouray.

The area is named for Uncompahgre Peak, which at 14,309 feet (4,361 m) is the highest peak in the San Juan Mountains. The Wilderness includes one other prominent fourteener, Wetterhorn Peak at 14,015 feet (4,272 m).


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