North Sterling Reservoir is a boater's paradise with 3,000 acres of pristine waters to explore and two boat ramps to launch the fun. New visitors often become returning regulars when they discover that this large reservoir has miles of wide-open space for both quiet fishing and exciting waterskiing. Read through the descriptions below to help plan your next adventure.
To the northwest, Darby Arm offers excellent wiper fishing. North Sterling's largest channel catfish of 2009 came out of Darby - 33 1/2 inches long and 24 pounds! For those seeking quiet and calm, the far west end of Darby Arm ends in a shallow marsh with great opportunities for wildlife watching. Great Blue Herons and other wetland birds are often found here, hunting for small fish or feeding on underwater plants for dinner.
To the southwest, Cunningham Arm is longer and narrower than Darby. Be careful of Goose Island, a shallow area marked by buoys at the mouth of Cunningham. As the water level drops, Goose Island emerges from the water and provides a safe haven for waterfowl where predators can't reach. The far west end of Cunningham is bordered by sandstone cliffs, offering cool shade for a quiet picnic lunch on your boat, and an interesting look at the geologic processes that deposited the many layers of sandstone that make up the bedrock of the North Sterling region.
Relax on the Shoreline
By boat, check out Darby Point and Rookery Point on the west side of the reservoir across from the dam. These shady areas offer fine shoreline fishing and a cool place to rest with a picnic. On the main park, head for the Ski Beach, just south of the South Boat Ramp, or Sunset Cove, at the west end of the point within walking distance of the swim beach. Remember, boats are not permitted inside the No Boat Zone around the Swim Beach, and swimmers are not allowed to swim outside the buoy line to meet a boat. Please note the state park property boundaries shown on the reservoir map. Boaters may recreate anywhere on the water, but the land outside the park boundaries is private property. Please respect our neighbors and stay off private lands.
Frequently-Asked Boating Questions:
When is the reservoir open to boating? When does the reservoir close to boating?
The reservoir opens to boating in the spring after ice off, and will stay open until October 31st. The reservoir closes to boating on November 1st as required by law. Inspections for aquatic nuisance species are required prior to launching.
Why do the water levels change so much?
North Sterling is an irrigation storage reservoir, and the water inflow, outflow, and water levels are all controlled by the North Sterling Irrigation District. Water levels fluctuate during the irrigation season from May to September according to the needs of farms and ranches in the region. See the Conditions page for current water levels and outlet flow information.
Park staff work hard to keep up and mark shallow areas and underwater hazards with buoys, but boaters are warned to be especially alert to submerged hazards such as rocks, sand bars, or trees.
What equipment am I required to have on my boat?
minimum required safety equipment for recreational boats, or see the current Colorado boating rules and regulations.
For their safety, children under 13 must wear a correctly-sized life jacket at all times while on the water, with all the buckles buckled and the straps adjusted.
North Sterling has a FREE life-jacket loaner program, with sizes from infants to adults, for those times when you have unexpected guests or you discover the kids have outgrown their old life jackets! Stop by the Visitor Center or call us at (970) 522-3657 for more details.
When is the marina open?
PJ Marina typically opens near Memorial Day weekend and closes after Labor Day weekend. Operating hours can vary day to day.
For more information call (970) 466-2279
Do you sell gasoline?
PJ Marina does offer gasoline for boats. Firewood, bagged ice, bait, soda, and other items for boating, fishing, and camping are available for purchase at the Northside Marina.
Can I rent a boat slip?
Boat slips will be available for short-term or seasonal rental through the Marina this year. Boat and trailer dry storage is also available on site.
Can I rent a boat or jet-ski?
PJ Marina does not currently offer power boat of Personal Water Craft for rent. They do have canoes for rent.
When are your boat safety classes scheduled?
Boating Safely certification classes are offered once a month on certain Monday and Thursday afternoons and evenings. These courses are home-study courses with a review session and a test at the park. 14 and 15 year-olds are required to complete this course and pass the test to legally operate a motorboat in the State of Colorado. Parents and visitors of all ages are welcome to sit in on the review session as well.
Please call the Visitor Center at (970) 522-3657 to obtain a study guide and to register for a class. See the Boating Safety Course page for details about North Sterling's course schedule.
What is the orange water-skiing flag for, and why are the rangers so insistent that we use it?
Remember, water-skiing requires three people: the boat operator, the skier and the observer (the person watching the skier). It's the observer's job to display a 12" x 12” bright orange flag whenever a skier or equipment is the water. Think about it: when a skier falls down, the boat keeps going for 500 or 1000 feet before turning around to pick up the skier. Another boat operating in the same area might not be able to see the person or the rope floating in the water. The orange ski flag is a highly visible universal sign that a person or equipment is in the water where another boat operator might not be able to see them - like turning on your four-way hazard lights in your car. When your observer holds up that orange flag, other boats know to steer clear of the area.
Your ski flag is required to be 12"x12" and bright orange for visibility. If you find that your ski flag has faded from sun damage, it needs to be replaced. Free replacement orange ski flags may be available at North Sterling's Visitor Center.
Parasails and kite tubes are not permitted.
Please see the CPW Boating Program section for more information.