(CBS4) – Coloradans who are eager to visit a scenic part of the state they haven’t seen before have reason to be excited about a surprising announcement made this fall. In late October a happy Gov. Jared Polis declared that Colorado will be getting a new state park. Sweetwater Lake — which Colorado Parks and Wildlife describes in a news release as a “hidden gem” — will soon become Colorado’s newest state park.

Sweetwater Lake (credit: Todd Winslow Pierce)

The announcement was made by the governor on Oct. 21 at the lake in western Colorado. He said the park should be open to visitors by the summer of 2022.

The 72-acre natural lake sits on property that used to be a private 488-acre ranch and is now part of the White River National Forest. It contains rare wetland plants, ponds, irrigated meadows, springs and a cave. Within a few years of the park’s opening the state park will have trails to hike on as well as camping. A boat dock will be installed before next year’s opening.

(credit: Eagle Valley Land Trust)

The park will be jointly managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, White River National Forest and the Eagle Valley Land Trust. No other state park has a shared management plan like this, but CPW Deputy Regional Manager Jacob Bray is hopeful for more arrangements like it in the future.

Bray was there for Polis’ announcement and spoke on a CPW podcast about the park, which is located northeast of Glenwood Springs and about 18 miles northwest of Dotsero. He said it serves as a gateway to the Flat Tops Wilderness area.

(credit: Todd Winslow Pierce)

“(Visitors) will have plenty of opportunity to enjoy that property. It’s a very scenic place, a little bit off the beaten path, but certainly one that folks will enjoy,” he said.

Bray thinks the park will be opening as early as the spring, but “there won’t be a full buildout” of all the amenities for several years.

“It won’t happen overnight,” he said.

The cave at Sweetwater Lake used to be used by members of the Ute Native American tribe, according to Bray. It will be one of just many experiences Bray thinks will impress people who’ve never visited the area before.

During his announcement, Polis said the new recreational destination will “support job growth for the region.”

Colorado currently has 42 state parks. Sweetwater Lake will become the 43rd.

Jesse Sarles