Prospect Lake, Colorado Springs

Prospect Lake
~ 1605 E. Pikes Peak Avenue, Colorado Springs, Colorado ~

A beautiful water-sports popular swimming lake in the heart of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Popularized by the many offerings of Memorial Park and the YMCA Aquatic Center, this location is very popular with the locals for swimming, fishing, boating, water skiing, jet skiing, and water sports. The parks and amenities along its shores are very popular, including playgrounds, bath house, beaches, recreational trails, and picnic spots. There is also one wheelchair accessible fishing dock. Some boating requires licenses or permits, but both motorized and non-motorized boats may operate on the lake, including sail boats, canoes, row boats, and paddle boats some of which can be rented in the park. There is a 1.25 mile long fitness trail around the lake. At the official beach, which is roped in to protect swimmers from boating, offers a once a week opportunity to swim 6-8 pm saturdays beyond the ropes to the rest of the lake.

The lake is historic and man-made being originally built in 1890 as a reservoir for overflow irrigation water. It became a swimming lake in 1932. It was donated with land by General William Jackson Palmer along with other Colorado Springs parks upwards of 1270 acres to the City of Colorado Springs. Prospect Lake is part of Memorial Park. There is some dark history to the lake, including the fact that it has leaked massive amounts of water for over 50 years causing environmental issues for the city. This has raised much controversy as the lake has been drained in the past and contemplations of emptying it for good has been considered. The commission put together a $50,000 study to determine why it is leaking water. It is believed that the bentonite clay lining that was installed in 1953 on its bottom cracked when it was exposed and dried out in 2002 when it was purposely allow to dry up during the 2002 drought. Prior to that the lake had been annually pumped with potable water by Colorado Springs Utilities. The lake was refilled in 2003 with non-potable water and banned swimming that year. It is hypothesized that the water leaked through the cracks into an underground aquifer. leaking through the porous ground soil at the same pace throughout the years. Evaporation is also believed to be a major issue annually. The Parks office claims “it’s a birdbath with a crack in it”. The lake loses 392 acre feet or 128 million gallons of water every year, 54% through leakage and 46% by evaporation. 400 acre-feet of water costs the city $389,000. Theories state the city could drain the lake and install a bentonite liner over the other half of the bottom but that would cost several hundred thousands of dollars and would not solve the evaporation problem. Other solution would be the city building a well north of the lake in the aquifer that takes much of the seepage and pump the water back into the lake. They say “its just a major recreation area. We’ll put hundreds of thousands of dollars into ball fields … and when you think about Prospect Lake, it has that same kind of benefit” Richard Skorman, the Vice Mayor stated.

As for cleanliness, the lake has potable water pumped into it annually and they have drained and refilled the lake a few years back. In former years, it has been “sketchy” due to patrons, general neighborhood concerns, and cleanliness but many of those issues have been tackled in current years. City Health officials state that even though swimming pools are rigorously chlorinated and tested daily, outdoor swimming lakes and beaches are not. There is no way to chlorinate, check chemical quality, use a filtration system or check turbidity. Even with swimming pools, a 2010 national study states that 1 in 8 pool inspections led to an immediate closure due to code violations. Pools can be closed in minutes with on the hour testing. Some pool operators go above and beyond, such as the YMCA at Monument Park including emergency response plans to deal with any unexpected issues involving recreational water illnesses (RWI) that can cause diarrhea, gastrointestinal, ear, respiratory, eye and would infections often caused by cryptosporidium, giardia, shigella, norovirus, and E. coli. The YMCA operates several city-owned pools and water features including Monument Valley Pool, Portal Pool, Wilson Ranch Pool, and Prospect Lake Beach in Memorial Park. The YMCA follos state Department of Public Health and Environment’s guidelines for natural swimming areas and testing. The beach is tested 17 times during the summer, collecting bacteriological water quality samples at least once every seven days and no fewer than 5 times a month, collecting water-quality samples at least 24 hours prior to the beginning of a peak-use period and within 24 hours after the end of the same peak use period such as before and after Memorial Day weekend.

Note: The safety of the lake is questionable even though it has a city operated bath house, swimming beach, and is a popular recreation spot in Colorado Springs. According to the local hospital, the water is questionable. My son, on Sunday June 10th, 2018 cut his toe on something sharp in the water while swimming, resulting in 4 stitches. Please be careful swimming in these waters.

There was an article about Sunken Treasure that was revealed in the lake when it was drained showing finds such as a metal skeleton of a 1960’s Volkswagon Bug, shot guns, rifles, knives, class rings, ice cube trays, a 45 rpm record, empty pull-tab cans, and jewelry. A local prospector with his Bounty Hunter metal detector has found 14 shotguns, handguns, and rifles since 2002 many with their serial numbers filed off. The Bug is believed to have been driven onto the lake when frozen one winter that fell through the ice.

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Rated: 3 of 5 stars. ~ Review by Leaf McGowan/Thomas Baurley, Technogypsie Productions ~

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