John Martin Reservoir | Outdoorsy

John Martin Reservoir
Guide

Introduction

John Martin Reservoir is a reservoir built on the Arkansas River as an oasis on the plains of southeastern Colorado, a little under four hours from Denver. It is used for irrigation, flood control, and recreation and is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Storage of water in the reservoir began in January 1943 as a result of the construction of the dam. When full, John Martin Reservoir has a surface area of over 11,000 acres.

Located in the Lower Arkansas River Valley, John Martin Reservoir is known for its swimming, boating, and great fishing. Here you can enjoy the reservoir along with all the services available at John Martin Reservoir State Park. A big plus at this COE park is that it doesn't get super crowded during the peak season. You can easily find a spot for yourself that is quiet and private on most days, even in the summer.

The reservoir does not provide any COE campgrounds, but you'll find John Martin Reservoir State Park and its camping options on the reservoir's shores. Make sure you make reservations in advance to take advantage of the spacious, waterfront sites.

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Camping Accommodations

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RV Rentals in John Martin Reservoir

Transportation

Driving

The roads to John Martin Reservoir in Bent County, Colorado, are paved and easily navigable in a large rig. During the winter, there is a high possibility that you will run into snow and ice on your trip. Make sure to check road conditions and carry snow tires and other gear as needed.

The closest town is Las Animas. You'll need to travel 15 miles east on US50 and two miles south on county road 260 to reach the reservoir. Pick up groceries and fill up on gas here and then make the final journey. Once at the reservoir, park your rig and explore on foot or by bike.

All visitors to John Martin Reservoir State Park are required to purchase and display a valid Colorado State Parks Pass.

Parking

The area surrounding John Martin Reservoir is open and flat. There are ample parking options for all vehicles, big and small.

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in John Martin Reservoir

Campsites in John Martin Reservoir

Reservations camping

John Martin Reservoir State Park

While there are no Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds at John Martin Reservoir, John Martin Reservoir State Park, on the shores of the reservoir has an abundance of options for RV campers. These sites will accommodate RVs up to 132 feet in length. About half of the 213 sites have electric hookups and one has full hookups if you're lucky enough to snag it.

Located in two loops, Hasty Lake and Point, you can find sites with water views and use the onsite showers and restrooms. There is a spot for fishing by Lake Hasty and a playground for the kids. Choosing this campground puts in the middle of the action with close proximity to the Arkansas River and the Reservoir.

All sites are available by reservation only at this pet-friendly campground. This means to have to book in advance or you will not be able to camp here.

Seasonal activities in John Martin Reservoir

Off-Season

Visit Bent's New Fort

For a little dose of history while you're visiting this COE park, plan a trip to Bent's New Fort on the Arkansas River. Located eight miles west of Lamar, on private land, much of the fort is gone but the earthworks can still be seen.

This important historical site is along the Santa Fe Trail and is indicated by a marker. Imagine the things that would have happened here during its use as a fort by the US government from 1860 to 1867.

The area is open so bring a hat and sunscreen. It's also rattlesnake habitat so watch out for them.

Picnicking

One of the nice things about John Martin Reservoir is the low amount of traffic it receives. Whether in peak or off season, you and the members of your group should have no difficulty finding a quiet spot for a picnic.

Picnic sites are scattered throughout John Martin Reservoir State Park so there's certain to be an ideal location for everyone. If you're a registered camper at either the Hasty Lake or Point loops of the campground, you can use the picnic tables and grills there too.

Wildlife Viewing

This Army Corps of Engineers reservoir is somewhat remote so it is an ideal habitat for many types of birds and other wildlife.

There about 400 different species of birds that have been documented in Bent County so your chances of seeing diverse feathered creatures are high. Slightly south of the reservoir you'll find yucca grasslands ample birdlife. Look our specifically for Cassin's Sparrows and Ferruginous Hawks.

The west end of the reservoir is the State Wildlife Area where the animals roam free. Grab your camera for some pictures of deer, rabbits, raccoons, and even bears.

In-Season

Fishing

As a warm water fishery, John Martin Reservoir is a great spot to do some fishing on your next trip. The water is stocked as needed and anglers can expect to catch catfish, crappie, saugeye, largemouth bass, walleye, and wiper. You can fish either in the reservoir or Hasty Lake.

Make sure you consult Colorado Parks and Wildlife for information on fishing licenses prior to dropping your line in the water.

Water Sports

John Martin Reservoir is open to all types of boating - bring your motor boat, kayak or canoe to explore the rugged coastline of the reservoir. If you're into waterskiing, tubing, and jetskiing, you can do them all here.

If you don't have your own watercraft, there are options to rent them locally so there's no reason to miss out on these fun activities. Boat ramps make access to the water a breeze.

At John Martin Reservoir, you can swim in the posted areas only. The swimming beach at Hasty Lake is a great spot for kids to splash around but be aware that there are no lifeguards on duty.

Hiking

A portion of the Santa Fe Trail passes by the John Martin Reservoir so the hiking here is excellent. The area is predominantly flat so the terrain is suitable to hikers of all skill levels.

A simple walk around the reservoir can be deceivingly exciting. While it may appear to be a basic man-made body of water nestled in the prairie flat lands, in fact, the coastline of the reservoir is quite interesting. Marvel at the shale rock layers that are exposed and how the water and wind have carved unique formations in the rock.