Friday, February 3, 2012

A Late Winter Look at John Martin Dam

Today, 2/3/12, John Martin Reservoir holds 32,551 acre-feet of water.  This time last year the dam held around 43,000 acre-feet.

According to Karen Downey, Operations Manager at the Corps of Engineers, the Corps has completed their security fence project and has replaced valves on the pumps inside the dam.

“Going green is always considered when looking at the options we have for each project we do.” said Downey.   “The windows in the administration building were replaced by new windows that are much more efficient in conserving heat loss. Insulation was added to several of the out-buildings to help save on energy costs.”

Though this year’s funding is still unknown, Downey wants to remove some overgrown vegetation.  “On the top of my list is to rid the dam rip-rap of all the vegetation that has grown up in the past few years.”

With Water 2012 in full swing, the Corps could be a productive connection for local schools to help raise water awareness in the valley.  Many southeastern Colorado families are involved in farming and ranching and are thus tightly dependent upon water usage and availability.  Their children – and others, have an added opportunity this year to learn and grow in their understanding of the import of water on the high plains.  We are fortunate to have a local government leader willing to assist in this education process: “I'll be glad to help whenever I can. I always try to take the opportunity to work with the school systems,” Downey said in a recent interview.  If you are a teacher or educational leader in southeast Colorado, take this year’s special and unique opportunity to get involved with your school and a Water 2012 committee.  The Corps of Engineers is a pertinent, local contact to assist you with a program related to southeastern Colorado water issues.

Michael Seraphin is the media contact for DOW, (formerly Colorado Division of Wildlife) which is merging with Colorado Parks into a new agency, Colorado Parks and Wildlife.  He explained that the legislature and both of those agencies are currently still hammering out complicated financial and administrative issues; their combined direction is toward trimming the two agencies into “…a single mind.  Getting policies, finances and personnel rearranged is complicated,” he said. "Finances are a tough issue to merge due to complex agency regulations". 

Seraphin did not think this merger would affect visitor fees at John Martin, though he reiterated that the merger is still in process with many issues still undergoing legislative review.

Dwayne Nelson, biologist for the Corps, had some positive reviews with last year’s Plover management. “In 2011, we topped the last 3 to 4 years,” Nelson said.  “Between John Martin, Blue Lake and a site east of Lamar, 15 birds fledged/ left their nests.  Our habitat and management works,” Nelson said proudly. He also said the Tern population seems to be holding their numbers.

Nelson was quick to explain that “…the Tern and Plover habitat management and population productivity are a team effort of vision and sponsorship between the Corps, Parks and Wildlife and my own efforts.”

For further information on John Martin Dam: Corps of Engineers, 719.336.3476; Parks and Wildlife, 719.227.5250.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

John Martin Reservoir State Parks Meeting

This note came from The Valley Grocery in Hasty, Colorado, written by Karen Downey, Operations Manager, Corps of Engineers, John Martin Dam, Hasty, Colorado..

“A meeting will be held on 30 June 2011 between Colorado State Parks, Bent County Commissioners and The Corps of Engineers in an effort to keep areas open and under the control of Colorado State Parks. Also in attendance will be U.S Representative Cory Gardner’s District Representative Doris Morgan. It would be of great help if District Representative Doris Morgan and Commissioner Bill Long understood how local people feel about having the presence of Colorado State Parks at John Martin Reservoir.

Please forward your opinions and concerns to:

Doris Morgan:

Bill Long:

This meeting will include discussion on the presently closed North Point Campground on the north shore of John Martin Dam, inside the park boundaries.

As I understand it, this particular meeting is closed to public attendance. There may be people here in Bent County as well as surrounding counties that would like to have input into this discussion. Though John Martin Reservoir State Park has not been here that many years, funding cuts and economic pressures seem to cause increasing fees and public restrictions for park usage; senior passes have almost doubled. Will further closures take place? Wouldn't it make sense to lower prices to increase visitor usage or let the Corps run the reservoir as it used to, without fees?
LinkWhile meeting with Karen Downey today, the Corps Operations Manager, she mentioned that she would like to see the campground re-opened for use again. I found this attitude refreshing and in tune with local opinion I’ve heard throughout the valley.

How do you feel about John Martin State Park? Let your voice be heard. A public/open meeting of southeast Colorado residents with the Corps and Park representatives would allow the public....a stronger say in the management of their Public lands.

Contact Doris Morgan (Representative Cory Gardner) at or Bent County Commissioner Bill Long at and let your voice be heard.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Morning at John Martin Dam.

Waiting for the breaking moment of that light-of-hope over the horizon, it is easy to get caught up in the din from thousands of geese resting on the ice on the open water to the west.

"Just a quick peek at the geese," I tell myself, "then I'll walk back over to the east side of the dam. The rays will take a few minutes to shine over Lake Hasty; I have time."

Suddenly, the din grows several decibels; included is a sound similar to a new, large, long crack in the ice. Turning quickly I see the entire flock of snow geese that had been resting together - only seconds before, all rise up in unison. This is a sound I will never forget, a unique sound, frozen in my memory.

"How can all those little brains unite and synchronize in a split second and carry out the exact same thought?" It freezes my bones; this is a Nature-moment...forever in my soul.

They slowly circle about 10 feet in the air, a flowing, ethereal, perfectly choreographed dance known only to Nature and her insatiable need for beauty.

The light behind me grows.

The ice on Lake Hasty waits as the seconds pass...another stunning, fleeting sunrise presents itself!

John Martin Dam. Once again in the daylight.

A force of Nature, awaiting the 'forces of man' and his/her unending arguments, disputes and regulatory verbiage. To release or not to release...

The amount of water in John Martin Dam, according to the USGS, is 43,800 acre-feet on 1/23/11.

Ice covers most of the reservoir today. Geese - both Canadas and Snows, abound. Gulls are intermittent, in the corners and along the shadows of the rocks and outcroppings along the shores. A lonely Heron sits on the stilling basin ice. During the 3 years I have watched and photographed the stilling basin, a lone Heron consistently sits around the same spot on the north side - ice or water - about in the middle of the basin.

Another morning moment along the banks of Lake southeast John Martin Reservoir State Park.

As always...Nature prevails.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sunrise Vigil at Red Shin Standing Ground

August 12, 2010 came alive as the sun climbed slowly over the horizon, while a few clouds diffused the sun rays into variations of golden oranges, rusty yellows and shadowed grays.


Time seemed to stand quite still as I contemplated the slow creep of the colors above the horizon.
The view atop Red Shin Standing Ground at John Martin Reservoir State Park was particularly stunning this SE Colorado morning.

Some rays crept between the pile of rocks beneath me, others stretching across the low, ground features around the park area.
Morning sounds including laughter and conversation emanated from the campground nearby, to the southeast.

This rock feature is connected with an interesting Native American story.

It seems a young Indian named Red Shin decided he wanted the hand of a certain lovely maiden; unfortunately, he was not the only interested party, and a difference of opinion broke out among many warriors.

As the story goes, Red Shin took his stand against these interlopers of similar intent, behind this large rock feature on a small hill northwest of the now existing Lake Hasty Campground.

According to the legend, following a long and furious standoff, Red Shin emerged the strongest warrior and walked off into the sunset, hand in hand with the aforementioned maiden.

Those many years ago, Red Shin did not have this stunning view of John Martin Dam, though the then-existing grove of tall, old cottonwoods standing along the Arkansas (behind which most likely stood many furious warriors), probably gave him plenty of awe and respect for Nature and her outstanding beauty.

As he pondered his fate, he probably enjoyed the soothing sounds of the moving river water as it fell over rocks and falls on its flow to Kansas. Nature is vividly and pervasively visible from this high view.

No doubt he pondered the bobcats that used dens in the rocks to the west of his position. I'm sure he pondered a lot of this during those hours - including his possible demise!

In the end, his perseverance, strength and prowess gave him the win he so valiantly pursued - and gained.

This summer, 2010, the park installed a small parking lot and a pictured sign explaining this interesting legend of Red Shin. When you venture to John Martin Reservoir State Park, be sure to stop by and take in the interesting rock outcropping Red Shin used for his legendary battle of Love.

Whether you enjoy this visit during the early sunrise or late sunset, Red Shin Standing Ground will await your camera and your admiration, in its position that will most likely forever stand guard over the northeast side of the east face of John Martin John Martin Reservoir State Park...on the high plains of southeast Colorado.

All photos are taken by, and are property of Danielle Simone.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Spring Sunrise at John Martin

John Martin Dam stood particularly tall and proud into the cool, spring sunrise today. There is something magical, serene and even a bit bone-chilling, about standing on tons of old, solid, man-made concrete, high above the water, while the gentleness, beauty and fragility of Nature wraps around me. In addition, I am standing stock still as the planet under me flies around the sun in vacant space at some unfathomable speed! Hmmm...

The Corps of Engineers began releasing 215 CFS (cubic feet per second), into the Stilling Basin today. While the basin had three large sandbars yesterday, this morning at sunrise, two of them were covered. Harriette Heron stood guard on the third one, waiting for breakfast.

Yesterday, the reservoir held 85,900 acre-feet of water, threatening to gobble up the boat ramps on the north shore and the points of land jutting out on the south side.

Most of the geese have wandered north as the weather warmed here in southeast Colorado. But wildlife prevails through all seasons here at John Martin. A lone Turkey Buzzard flew over me on the dam as my camera checked out the morning sunrise poking through a narrow band of light gray and pinkish clouds on the eastern horizon.

Not as spectacular as some I've enjoyed, but unique and memorable. Shortly after, a sea gull lazily hovered close to the water, followed by two Pelicans who checked out Lake Hasty first and then flew over me to the reservoir. As I passed through the park road, a lone Grebe was diving for his morning snacks.

My sources say 45.5 degree water temperatures prevail at the dam today; spring is here and Nature's wake-up call can be seen in the greening of the trees, the changing of types of wildlife, the warming of the water and air as well as in the slightly northern movement of the sunrise on the horizon.

Deer tracks littered the small gully below Red Shin Standing Ground, giving witness to the unseen park herd that often graze in and around the campground in the early morning or near sunset. Spring is also calling some hardy campers; the Lake Hasty Campground had at least seven of them, taking advantage of brisk, spring breezes off Lake Hasty and beating the early summer rush of tourists to John Martin Reservoir State Park facilities.

As the large, white moon dropped toward the western horizon and the sunrise pale pinks tinged the lacy clouds across the sky, I stood absolutely still for a few moments, absorbing the 'spring' around me; the cool, moist air against my cheeks, the clean smell in my nose, the soothing sounds of waves lapping against the rocks below on the west side of the dam, the distant sound of the seagull...Nature at John Martin Reservoir in the early morning.

The changing of the seasons, one of Nature's yearly marvels, never ceases to overwhelm my humanness with awe and appreciation. Yes, man took millions of dollars, time and effort and numerous materials to create this 118 foot high structure. And humanity's ability to change river flows, fill up valleys with water and cover mountain tops with houses attests to our human power. Yet Nature prevails in the end, and we continue to enjoy her majesty and beauty, particularly at John Martin Dam on the southeast high plains of colorful Colorado.

note: all photos on this blog are copyrighted and available only by permission;

Thursday, January 14, 2010


(click on pictures to enlarge view)

Thursday, January 15, 2010, began cold and windless across Red Shin Standing Ground at John Martin Reservoir State Park.

Literally thousands of dark/Canada geese and many times more white/Snow geese littered the main lake of the reservoir as the sun broke through the horizon.

A white flurry of birds hover over the reservoir; a beautiful din of goose song is enjoyable, even at that distance from the shore.

As evidenced by the many signs posted throughout the park and wildlife areas, the shorelines are mostly off limits to everyone during waterfowl season.

Fire danger index registers only at medium today, probably due to the remaining splotches of snow left from our storm last week. But a lot of dry grasses and tall weeds in the area give heed to caution with any use of open flames. The quick, hard winds of the southeast Colorado high plains can kick up in a matter of minutes, creating potential disaster from even a small fire.

Though my little workhorse of a camera gives great shots in the near view, long-range shots are grainy and leave a lot to the imagination. Still, I thought these regal animals, silhouetted on the hill in the sunrise, were memorable and worth sharing. They wanted AWAY from me - even as far as this hill stood in relation to my parked car. This herd of sometimes up to 10 or more animals, call John Martin State Park their home.

At noon, January 15, 2010, water level at John Martin stood at 52,900 acre-feet. No water is being released; the stilling basin is quiet and frozen...mostly.

John Martin Dam stands tall on the high plains, keeping farmers supplied with water during the growing season and keeping southeast Colorado safe from flood-waters.

This reservoir and its surrounding lands offer beauty, recreation and a natural display unlike any other in the area. Nature abounds throughout the seasons offering water, wetlands, hiking trails, birding, boating, swimming, camping, fishing and picnicking, weather and park seasons permitting. Make a point to take your camera...and your spirit, for a treat; visit John Martin Dam, just south of Hasty, Colorado.

Nature prevails.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Echos of Summer in Winter Snow

(click on photos to enlarge)

The Stilling Basin

I'm fairly sure the ice in the Stilling Basin...means summer is no longer present. But as I drove around John Martin Reservoir State Park today in the falling snow and biting wind, the echoes of Summer spoke up in several places.

"You know Fred, ain't nothin' but catfish bitin' today. Guess I'll call it quits and see what the Missus has for supper."

The Fish Cleaning Station, Lake Hasty Campground

"Shucks, John, that poor catfish ain't worth dirtying your knife for!"

"Never you mind Fred. I gotta bring somethin' home. You want the Missus to think I was out doin' things I'm a thinkin' she might lock me out for?"

"You have a point, John. Keep slicing. And try not to get the end of your finger like you did last time!"

Playground north of Swim Beach

"Jamie, it's my turn! You had the swing last time. You promised!"

"Alright, alright. Come over and go on the slide with me when you're done. I'll walk slowly."

"Jamie, Randy; lunch is ready; hot dogs and ice cream. Hurry up 'for it melts!"

Lake Hasty Campground

"Honey, did we pack the bug spray? These mosquitoes are bad tonight."

"Jack, I watched you put it in the top of the backpack with the sunglasses."

"Mom, I'm hungry. Can we go to McDonalds?"

"No, Nancy, Dad's putting hamburgers on the grill in a bit. Have a glass of juice for now; there's some in the cooler by the tent."

Hasty Lake Swimbeach
"Mary, don't go out too far. Make sure Aaron is nearby you."

"Dad, come on in, the water's warm. I won't splash you, I promise."

"Aaron, you get on the other side of Dad when he gets here and you splash him first; then I'll do it too. He can't get mad at both of us, right?"

Turkey Buzzard Roosting Tree

As I left the swim beach and passed by this tree, I could almost hear the quiet of the Turkey Buzzards as they sleep here in the warm mornings and evenings of their Summer roost.

This sleeping Yucca huddles close to the snow during its Winter sleep, while holding up it's empty seed pods, a token memory for its large, showy, white spring blossoms. All in due time, Nature plans her Spring and Summer shows while her cast awaits her beckon call.

The Dam Road


The warm, echoes of Summer quickly died as I passed a snowplow on the dam road. As if to reinforce the reality of Winter, flocks of geese hovered over the plow, dancing their Winter flight over a partially frozen reservoir.

The winds of Winter have snuggled into the southeast Colorado high plains, evident this frigid morning at John Martin Reservoir State Park, Hasty Colorado.