Colorado Parks and Wildlife Park Rangers at Eleven Mile and Spinney Mountain State Park's are issuing a warning to anglers and paddle sport visitors after having to rescue 12 individuals out of the water since April 30.
"We've had 10 rescues, most of which were individuals that were hypothermic, plus one rescue of an unconscious individual in the water and one death since April 30," said Park Manger Darcy Mount. "This is not a place for a beginner. This is not the place to test out your new canoe, kayak or paddleboard."
The deceased individual was discovered on the morning of Friday, May 13 at Eleven Mile Reservoir. The victim was a 67-year-old male resident of Lakewood. The Park County coroner will reveal the official cause of death and identify the victim, but Park Rangers believe the man, who was in a personal inflatable pontoon boat, was likely in the water overnight. He launched on the water at the Howbert Point Campground on the south side of the reservoir and was found on the north shore Friday morning without a life jacket or an insulated wetsuit.
Water temperatures at Eleven Mile Reservoir were 46 degrees the night before the deceased individual was discovered.
Mount stresses that visitors coming to the park need to be prepared for very cold water temperatures, high winds and the altitude. Eleven Mile and Spinney Mountain State Park's are among two of the most popular fisheries in the state, but officials warn it is not the beginner park for paddle sports of any kind.
"We do not get into the 50s until July and then we might get into the 60s come August, but then we are right back down again," Mount said, speaking of the water temperatures in Park County. "Even on the days that it is 60s on the surface of the water, if you go down a foot it is back to 40 degrees.
"Life jackets should be worn at all times. The regulations state you just have to have them on board at all times (for those 13 and older), but we highly recommend you wear them because that is what has saved lives so far."
From a 2017 economic impact survey on angling conducted by Southwick and Associates, Eleven Mile Reservoir contributes $5,834,687 in annual economic impact to the state's economy. In 2017, 97.2 percent of anglers visiting Eleven Mile State Park resided outside of Park County.
"I think all of our victims so far have been from the Denver area where the water is much warmer," Mount said. "They are going to Chatfield or Barr Lake where the water is 20 to 30 degrees warmer and then they come up here and it is a shock to the system. Don't assume that where you go is the same as where you are."
And for those not used to high altitude, these two parks lying in the expansive high-altitude grassland region of South Park can exacerbate the problems that the conditions present.
"The winds are worse this year than they've ever been," Mount said. "Even for Park County, the winds are horrible."
Boats are not allowed on Eleven Mile or Spinney Mountain reservoirs overnight only shoreline fishing is permitted overnight at Eleven Mile. Spinney Mountain is a day-use only park.
As for the rescues that have taken place since April 30, they have all been kayakers and canoes except for three of them. Three individuals were pulled from Spinney Mountain Reservoir on its season opening day, Saturday, May 7, by Park Ranger Makayla Barrett after their boat was sinking near the north boat ramp.
"Our rangers have done a great job of keeping people alive," Mount said. "Ranger Makayla did a great job at Spinney Mountain on its opening day with the boat that almost sunk in the windy conditions and helping to get other boats off the water with the help from several other anglers in the process."
On Tuesday, May 10, Rangers pulled three individuals out of the water after they got knocked off their canoes on Spinney Mountain. One of those individuals was unconscious. Emergency responders got the individual to regain consciousness as he was getting into the ambulance.
"The medical responders said if they were in the water five more minutes they would have died," Mount said, speaking towards those three rescues. "They were wearing life jackets and that saved their lives."
Park Rangers advise all visitors to know before they go, which means doing some research ahead of your visit. Check weather conditions prior to your drive to the parks, inspect your watercraft and be sure to have all the necessary safety equipment ( [log in for link]
) , call the park office at 719-748-3401 to ask about conditions and visit the park's website to learn more.