Eat, Drink, Play: Getting out on the water
Ryan Summerlin July 31, 2011
In Summit County, everyone’s going somewhere: downhill on skis, uphill on a mountain bike, to or from Denver on the highway.
The water taxi, a cheerful little pontoon boat owned and captained by insightful locals, is going to Dillon or Frisco via Dillon Reservoir every day of the week during the summer. But, unlike most skiers, bikers and vehicles on the interstate, they’re happy to give people, and their pets, a lift.
The peaceful 360-degree view from the lake, as well as the calming atmosphere out on the water, are unique and make boating stand out among the county’s summer recreation options. But most water-bound activities, including sailing, kayaking and boat rentals, tend to eat at least half a day out of well-planned vacations.
By contrast, the water taxi gets its passengers out on the water, while fitting in with other plans. Passengers can hop on one of the 10 or more trips the water taxi makes daily, enjoy a hike in Dillon or shopping and lunch in Frisco and then return on a later voyage.
The 30-minute journey is both relaxing and informative.
Weekend captain CJ Giordano, a year-round resident, pilots the pontoon between tree-lined islands while taking questions and offering insider information on everything from the intricate workings of the lake, which is actually a reservoir and Denver’s primary drinking-water supply, to the local landscape, weather, wildlife and history.
The 32-foot boat feels something like a water-bound deck, with its passengers invited to recline in lawn chairs, bring food and drinks aboard and enjoy the surrounding views. The solid little watercraft is never pushed much beyond 10 or 12 miles per hour and is not prone to rocking. On clear days, a pleasant breeze on the reservoir cuts the mid-day heat from the sun, which is two miles closer and often more intense than at sea level.
Visible from the reservoir on the crossing to Dillon are Buffalo Mountain and the distant 14,000-foot peaks of Torreys and Grays as well as Mt. Baldy. On the return trip to Frisco, the taxi cruises toward panoramic vistas of the first eight peaks of the Ten Mile Range.
Crossing between Dillon’s marina and Frisco’s, the taxi crosses over the old town of Dillon. The town was vacated in the early 1960s when the decision to construct the reservoir was made and now lies beneath 75-80 feet of frigid water, Giordano explains.
The reservoir is now closely monitored and maintained by Denver Water, a utility company. It is central, not only to the city’s water supply and Summit County’s summer recreation, but also to the regulation of water flows during the spring and summer runoff, which can impact both Breckenridge upstream and Silverthorne downstream.
Fare for a cab ride across Dillon Reservoir is $10 one-way and $19 round-trip for adults. Leashed dogs ride for free and bikes for $1. Owner Mike Russo said many people choose to ride Summit County’s carefully maintained recpath between Dillon and Frisco in one direction and load their bikes onto the water taxi for a relaxing return trip.
The boat can also be chartered in the mornings and evenings for private tours of the reservoir.