Jim Baker Reservoir
Jim Baker Reservoir is located just south of Westminster, at about West 61st Avenue between Lowell Boulevard and Tennyson Street in unincorporated Adams County. Although outside its municipal boundaries, the lake is owned by the City of Westminster and is an important part of its independent water system.
The 53-acre reservoir also provides the public with recreational amenities including fishing, a handicapped-accessible pier on the south shore, picnic areas and a 1.5-mile walking trail. Fish in the lake include rainbow trout, catfish, smallmouth bass, walleye, bluegill and several other species.
The reservoir is bordered by the walking trail, along with a rocky shoreline and wetlands. Beyond that, it is surrounded by houses and open fields to the north, a rail line and industrial building to the south, Lowell Boulevard and a former gravel quarry lake to the east and by Tennyson Street, houses and an industrial building to the west.
Public access is from a parking lot along Tennyson Street at about West 60th Avenue just north of the railroad tracks.
Water for the lake comes from the Manhart Ditch from Ralston Creek and the Kershaw Ditch, which originates from Clear Creek. Excess water is removed from the lake by a pump house along its southeastern shore. A small concrete spillway is also present along the eastern dam wall. Water drains from the lake underneath Lowell Boulevard, toward the east along the railroad tracks, and then back into Clear Creek.
During the late 1800s and up until around 1950, the site where Jim Baker Reservoir is found today consisted of agricultural land with two houses toward Tennyson Street. Marshland occupied its eastern area along Lowell Boulevard, and the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway formed its southern border.
The property’s use changed in the 1950s when it became a gravel quarry operated by the Cooley Gravel Company. Between the 1950s and 1980s, this quarry operation reshaped the site into a series of eight open pits that eventually filled with water and became known as Cooley Lakes.
In December 1960, owners Julius and Twyla Disner, Nick Colasacco and the Cooley Gravel Company sold the property to the Baker Metropolitan Water & Sanitation District for $321,700. Baker was the predecessor to the Crestview Water & Sanitation District, which used the ponds for raw water storage.
In 1988, the City of Westminster acquired the site from Crestview. Over the following decade, work was completed to turn the gravel quarry ponds into a single body of water known as Westminster Lake.
After the reservoir was completed, Linda Cherrington, president of the Westminster Historical Society, lobbied to have the lake renamed in honor of area pioneer Jim Baker. Widely recognized on the western frontier, Baker was a renowned trapper, Army scout, interpreter and guide who spent many years in the central Rocky Mountain region. Born in Illinois in 1818, he originally worked for the American Fur Company and then became an independent frontiersman and mountain man with extensive knowledge of the terrain and people living in what was later to become the states of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. In 1859, Baker settled in the undeveloped countryside just over one-half mile south of Jim Baker Reservoir, near today’s West 53rd Avenue and Tennyson Street. There he lived in a cabin with his two Indian wives and operated a store and toll ferry across the creek. This location became known as Baker’s Crossing. By 1865, Baker had built a toll bridge there to facilitate travel along the Denver Boulder Wagon Road.
In the early 1870s, Jim Baker moved north to Savery, Wyoming (Carbon County), where he was associated with the Shoshone tribe (one of his wives was a daughter of Chief Washakie). He ranched there for years prior to his death in 1898. Baker’s two-story log cabin survives in the collection of the Little Snake River Valley Museum in Savery, and he is buried in the nearby Baker Cemetery. In Colorado, Jim Baker was memorialized with a stained glass window in the State Capitol building’s Hall of Fame. Another memorial to Baker, a fenced bronze statue and stone marker installed in 1996, is located along Lowell Boulevard on the east side of Jim Baker Reservoir.
Jim Baker Reservoir was created between 1988 and 1995 to settle around 40 long-running lawsuits that revolved around water quality and supply in the countryside and communities north of Denver. The Clear Creek Water Quality Agreement, known informally as the “cosmic agreement,” was signed in May 1988 to resolve conflicts over water from Clear Creek and Standley Lake, which had been fought over for decades by municipal and agricultural users. The primary parties to the agreement included the cities of Westminster, Thornton and Golden, along with the Coors Brewing Company. Through this complicated agreement, the water in Jim Baker Reservoir is temporarily retained only to settle water rights claims and to protect the quality of water in Clear Creek and Standley Lake, which form Westminster’s primary supply.