Kayaking & Camping at Carter Lake Reservoir
Paddling around Carter Lake can be an exhilarating way to experience the natural surroundings of Larimer County, Colorado. The 1,100-acre lake stretches for 3 in the state’s northeast corner, tucked into 1,000 acres of grass and pine wilderness.
Kayakers can drive or paddle in to pitch a tent at the lake’s shoreline campgrounds or take a multiday journey, stopping at different camping areas along the way.
Where to Paddle
Carter Lake is open to motorized boating and is filled to capacity most summer weekends. While you are free to paddle anywhere in the lake, the entire western shore is a no-wake zone where you can explore quiet coves and inlets without having to watch for motorboat traffic.
The no-wake zone extends around the northern tip of the lake, providing access to park amenities including the marina and three campgrounds.
A Remote Feel
South Shore Campground provides the most remote camping experience available at the lake. Nine lakeside sites allow you to launch your kayak directly from your campsite. You’ll find two dozen more campsites beyond the shoreline, including six walk-in tent sites. The campground has grassy areas with trees that provide limited shade.
The park has restrooms and running water, as well as a boat ramp, horseshoe pits, volleyball and wheelchair-accessible trails, restrooms and campsites. Carter Knolls campground on the lake’s eastern edge has two walk-in tent sites and five car camping or RV sites where you can walk your kayak down the knoll to the water’s edge.
The North Shore
Enjoy basic amenities that include a boat ramp, restrooms and water at the four-site North Pines Campground on the lake’s northwestern shore. Big Thompson Campsite on the lake’s northeastern edge has eight sites on a grassy knoll along the lake’s edge, where you can easily carry your kayak down to the water.
Electricity and hot showers are found on the north shore at Eagle Campground, which sits just behind the marina — where you can also buy supplies, tie up at a boat dock or launch your kayak from the boat ramp.
The Red Tape
A daily or annual entrance permit is available for purchase at Carter Lake, at self-service stations near the park entrance and at local retail outlets. The permit entitles you to park your vehicle and put your kayak on the water. Kayaks are not required to have boat inspections before launching.
Campsite fees are charged on a per-night basis, and you must display your camping permit on the outside of your tent or RV. Campsites are reservable from April through October, and you’ll need a reservation to get a spot during most summer weekends.
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