Horsetooth Reservoir: A Must Paddle

Horsetooth Reservoir in Fort Collins, Colorado, is a wonderful place to get out your inflatable SUP and explore.  We planned and nailed down a 2-week reservation at Inlet Bay, the county-run campground with sites right along the lake's edge.  We could launch our Hala SUP boards right from our campsite morning, noon, or night.

With a quiver of Stand-up Paddleboards, our campsite quickly became a gathering place for friends and family. Of course, we were happy to share the Hala stoke and lend boards so everyone could enjoy the lake.

Luckily, water levels were prime this year. The lake level fluctuates depending on the season and can also vary from year to year.  This year it was very high at the end of June and the first part of July.  

Where to Paddle

The reservoir is 6.5 miles long and provides many miles of shoreline. I love paddling the shoreline, looking for interesting rocks and animals. You can also paddle along the boat slips and check out the different ski boats, houseboats, and mini yachts.  

The reservoir is always a good place to have a snorkel on hand.  This year, the water near shore was too murky to see, but I still had fun swimming around, dragging my SUP behind me as a Buoy.

Open Water Swims

The non-profit organization Horsetooth Open Water Swims annually sponsors long-distance swims in the reservoir. SUPers can volunteer as safety paddlers and assist as swimmers compete through different courses. 

I have volunteered as a Rover Paddler, in which my job was to make sure each swimmer got hooked up with their personal paddler escort, who would accompany them for the entirety of the 10 kilometers.  The start of the race seemed like chaos, with swimmers and paddlers everywhere.

Everyone had their escort in the first five to ten minutes except for a few solo swimmers whose escort had capsized or otherwise become unavailable.  Some of us rovers became escorts for them while the others paddled back and forth along the pack of swimmers, providing any assistance as needed and communicating via handheld radio. 

As the race progressed, we swept up behind all the competitors, making sure everyone made it to the finish line.  It was a hoot, and I recommend participating on your SUP or kayak if you plan to be in the area while it is being held. 

SUPers Paradise

This year, we got to see the annual boat parade. The boats were covered in 4th of July regalia and lights. We saw them file into line as they exited the Marina before returning to the RV to avoid a thunderstorm.

Between the Open Water Swim, the boat parade, and the stunning scenery, I cannot recommend Horsetooth highly enough. It truly is a must SUP spot.


Emily Barnes discovered SUP 12 years ago as a way to cope with drug and alcohol addiction. She has since tried whitewater SUP, ocean surfing, and has even explored bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico.

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