Waterton Canyon to reopen weekdays after three-month closure

A guide to help keep Denver Water employees, wildlife and visitors safe.

June 15, 2020 | By: Jose Salas

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced people and organizations around the world to change how they live and work.

The water Denver Water delivers to its customers remains safe.

But the utility made many changes to help reduce employees’ exposure to COVID-19 and ensure drinking water continued to arrive at homes and businesses.

These changes included closing Waterton Canyon on March 18, as well as other camping and picnic areas around the same time, based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Colorado officials.

Photo taken by a Denver Water caretaker days before reopening Waterton Canyon to the public. Photo credit: Denver Water.


Campsites and picnic areas opened in mid-to-late May, following careful consideration, planning and working with local partners, as part of a phased reopening plan for Denver Water recreation areas.

“While it hasn’t been easy, we’ve been able to open other facilities within the social distancing guidelines as they are around reservoirs where people can spread out or, in the case of the High Line Canal, a long trail with many access points,” said Brandon Ransom, manager of recreation for Denver Water.

“Waterton Canyon presents more challenges as there are limited access points and less ability to spread out since it is a service road for our operation and maintenance crews.”

The next step is to open Waterton Canyon to the public — on weekdays only — starting Monday, June 15.

The canyon will follow normal operating hours during the week, opening a half hour before sunrise and closing a half hour after sunset, and will remain closed on weekends. Denver Water will closely monitor weekday use over the next month to inform a successful weekend opening.

Denver Water understands the value its facilities hold for the community, especially as other areas around the state and nation open for recreation.

Waterton Canyon is a working Denver Water facility as well as living quarters for some of the utility’s employees and their families. Employees use the single road up the canyon 24/7/365 to maintain the many elements of the facility.

Having people in the canyon for recreation makes things more challenging.

The single road is often the site of congestion at the entrance and further up, especially when wildlife is on or near the road and people gather to watch and take pictures. Regular visitors to the canyon are likely familiar with its friendly resident bighorn sheep.

If you plan to visit Waterton Canyon or any of Denver Water’s recreation areas, the utility encourages visitors to follow safety guidelines:

  • Wear face masks and maintain a safe social distance from others.
  • Limit gathering around wildlife and blocking the service road.
  • Bring water as facilities may be limited or unavailable.
  • Denver Water staff have limited ability to provide support in case of emergencies.
  • Park in a safe and responsible manner at the assigned parking lots.
  • Those who do not follow parking regulations may be ticketed and/or towed.

Additional guidelines:

“Waterton Canyon is a popular recreation destination and we recognize the closure was an inconvenience. We ask the public to help us keep our resources and employees safe,” said Heath Stuerke, Strontia Springs Dam supervisor.

“The recent closure did allow us to improve the recreation experience by performing our annual dust mitigation project, which always requires us to close the canyon for a few weeks.”

In addition to Waterton Canyon, Denver Water offers recreation opportunities at eight other operational facilities with a wide range of options, including camping, boating, fishing and hiking.

For more information or updates on the status of Denver Water’s recreation facilities, please visit denverwater.org/Recreation.

2 thoughts on “Waterton Canyon to reopen weekdays after three-month closure”

  1. I am terribly disappointed that the canyon is closed to ebikes.

    I have been biking the canyon for over 25 years. However, as I have aged “75” and am no longer physically able to ride up with my bike. My ebike is a peddle assist class 1 bike.

    It doesn’t make noise, and requires the rider to peddle.
    Please reconsider the banning e bikes.

    1. Hi Domenico,
      Thanks for your question. Ebikes are not allowed in Waterton Canyon due to a recreation agreement between Denver Water and the U.S. Forest Service, which doesn’t allow ebikes on any of the land it manages. Denver Water and the Forest Service both own and manage property in the canyon.

      Devices approved by the Americans with Disabilities Act are permitted in the canyon and we can evaluate individual cases if someone asks us to consider their ebike as a mobility device under ADA guidance. You can reach out to recreation@denverwater.org with this request.

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