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Among Colorado's newest state parks, John Martin Reservoir (tel. 719/829-1801; www.parks.state.co.us) is a welcome oasis in the plains of southeastern Colorado. The entrance is off C.R. 24 out of Hasty, about 35 miles east of La Junta, although the reservoir stretches along the south side of U.S. 50 for some 10 miles before you reach it. That's just to whet your appetite for the many recreational opportunities that await you.

The park's namesake is very popular with those who love to windsurf, water-ski, or zip around in personal watercraft. You can swim, go birding, and do some great fishing, plus there are three boat ramps, picnic areas scattered about, and two campgrounds.

On the back side of the dam that forms John Martin Reservoir is the much smaller Lake Hasty, where only small watercraft with electric motors -- no gas -- are permitted. Lake Hasty also boasts a wheelchair-accessible fishing pier and small swimming area, plus there are several picnic areas and the developed Hasty Campground lies on its north side. You'll find coin-op showers, laundry facilities, and a dump station there; all sites have electric hookups. The many cottonwood and Russian olive trees provide shade and shelter numerous birds -- I saw about a dozen turkey vultures resting in a group of trees not far from my campsite -- and you'll see cottontail and jack rabbits all over the place. Point Campground is on a peninsula on the north side of the reservoir, with vault toilets, no electricity or water, but stupendous views of the reservoir and surrounding plains. It's closed in winter.

Anglers try for walleye, wiper, large- and small-mouth bass, crappie, catfish, bluegill, and perch in the main reservoir. Lake Hasty has those plus rainbow and cutthroat trout, and nearby is a fish-cleaning station. A portion of the reservoir is usually closed to all public access from November through mid-March. That's the nesting and brooding season of the threatened piping plover and endangered interior least tern, and the shores of the reservoir are one of their few remaining nesting areas in Colorado. The bald eagle also likes to winter here, in the large trees in Hasty Campground, so some of the campsites there are closed from November through March.

The 4.5-mile Red Shin Hiking Trail circles Lake Hasty and leads to a Santa Fe Trail Marker overlooking the reservoir.

There are 109 electric sites in Hasty Campground and 104 basic sites in the Point. Camping rates are $14 to $18; reservations are available for an extra charge of $8 by calling tel. 800/678-2267, or through the state parks website (listed above). Day use costs $6 per vehicle, and campers must pay this in addition to camping fees. From La Junta, take U.S. 50 east for 35 miles, then turn south on C.R. 24 to the park.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.