Work closes Pearl Lake trail

Route across dam temporarily off-limits while repairs are made

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— The trail over Pearl Lake Dam at Pearl Lake State Park will be closed beginning Wednesday and the lake will be lowered 10 feet while divers repair a leaky outlet gate. The closure will further limit use at the state park; its campground also is closed until May 2010 because of the mountain pine beetle epidemic.

The dam trail, which provides access from the lake at the base of Farwell Mountain to the Routt National Forest, is expected to reopen by the end of the month. The repair to the outlet gate is one of the final stages of $400,000 worth of repairs to the dam, first advertised in 2007. The dam is designated "high hazard" and must undergo annual inspection by engineers with the Colorado Division of Water Resources, because failure of the dam could mean the loss of human life and significant property damage.

Mike Havens, dam repair project manager for Colorado State Parks, said the dam has the

"high hazard" designation not because it is unsafe but because it is near a population center. The repairs being made to the dam won't change its designation, Havens said.

"It's a safe dam," he said, "but in order to keep it a safe dam, we need to do things periodically to maintain it."

Julie Arington, manager of Steamboat Lake and Pearl Lake state parks, recommends the use of hand-launched watercraft only while the water level is lowered. Colorado State Parks spokeswoman Deb Frazier said the lake will not return to its normal level until the snow melts after next winter.

The earthen dam at Pearl Lake - technically known as Lester Creek Reservoir - was constructed in 1963. It was built on the Routt National Forest and is managed cooperatively by Colorado State Parks and the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Lester Creek drains melting snow from Farwell Mountain into Pearl Lake. The creek exits the bottom of the dam and flows just more than a mile before merging with Willow Creek. That body of water flows another two miles before reaching its confluence with the Elk River above Glen Eden Resort and Clark.

- To reach Brandon Gee, call 367-7507 or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

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