Completing the bucket list, one reservoir at a time

As one adventure ends, a Denver Water employee embarks on a new one under the stars of the Milky Way.

June 25, 2020 | By: Kim Unger

Over my 11 years of employment at Denver Water, I’ve been to some pretty amazing places.

I’ve stepped down into a ditch to see the connection, or tap, from a Denver Water main in the street to the customer-owned pipe, or service line, that brings water into homes. I’ve walked around inside massive storage tanks.

But it wasn’t until I visited my first reservoir and dam that I created a bucket list: To visit all seven of Denver Water’s major reservoirs with recreation areas.

My first reservoir visit was way back when I was a child. My dad drove us up to Gross Reservoir for a picnic — before I even knew Denver Water existed or that the reservoir was a source for drinking water.

Skyview of Gross reservoir dam.
Gross Reservoir, named for Denver Water former Chief Engineer Dwight D. Gross, was completed in 1954. The dam, which is slated to be raised as part of the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project, rises 340 feet above the South Boulder Creek streambed. Photo credit: Denver Water.


The road up to the reservoir was terrifying. It’s a narrow dirt road with a steep drop on one side. At 10 years old, I was sure we were going to tumble off the road. Once we reached the picnic area, I was amazed by the peaceful views.

I visited the same reservoir again in 2009 during my new employee orientation tour where we took the same narrow road on a charter bus and then walked from the top of the dam all the way to the bottom on incredibly steep stairs.

Since then, I’ve photographed interns enjoying an educational day out on Dillon Reservoir. I’ve taken new employees to Williams Fork Reservoir. I captured the Journey of Water at Cheesman and Strontia Springs dams. And last year I learned about dam inspections at Antero Reservoir.

With one last reservoir to go on my list, I decided the best way to get my family out of the house and still practice social distancing was to pack up my trusty camping gear and book a spot at Eleven Mile State Park.

We ventured up the busy canyon, full of fishermen, campers, hikers and tubes. We avoided the crowds and parked at the far end of the  parking lot near the dam.

Eleven mile dam in the background of the image as a high stone wall with rocky hills on either side.
Eleven Mile Canyon Reservoir was completed in 1932 and stands 135 feet above the bed of the South Platte River. Photo credit: Denver Water.


There, we climbed on top of my car, took in the view of the 88-year-old structure and I pulled out my list.


All seven Denver Water reservoirs with recreation visited.

And then that evening, while sitting at my campsite under the stars, I got a head start on a new bucket list: To photograph the Milky Way at each reservoir, starting with Eleven Mile Canyon Reservoir.

One down, six to go.

For a beginner photographer, capturing the Milky Way could be a challenging venture, but one I look forward to.

Red and white doom like tent with silhouette of occupant inside tent closing the tent door, under a star filled sky and by Eleven Mile Reservoir Which is in the distant background.
Kim Unger, marketing specialist at Denver Water, and her family’s camp at Eleven Mile Reservoir under the stars of the Milky Way. Photo credit: Denver Water.


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

If you find yourself itching to create your own bucket list adventure and visit one of Denver Water’s reservoirs, including Waterton Canyon, be sure to help us all stay healthy by practicing social distancing and wearing masks as you pass by fellow outdoor enthusiasts and staff.

For more information or updates on the status of Denver Water’s recreation facilities, please visit

2 thoughts on “Completing the bucket list, one reservoir at a time”

  1. This article was interesting. It makes me want to go camping at reservoirs. Great pictures!

  2. Hi Dena, thank you very much for reading TAP and for the comment! We do have some great recreation areas as part of our system. Please remember to check recreation status before you head out and enjoy! Here’s a link to check recreation status:

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