Photos: Dolores River and McPhee Reservoir, May 2023

This page features aerial photos of the Dolores River and McPhee Reservoir in southwest Colorado.

The Dolores River begins in the San Juan Mountains and meets the Colorado River in southeast Utah near Moab.

The flow of the Dolores and the river’s ecology have been severely impacted by the construction of McPhee Dam, which was completed in 1984 and built primarily to supply irrigation water. Downstream from McPhee Dam, stretches of the Dolores have dried up in recent years, but the 2022-2023 winter delivered a tremendous snowpack to the San Juan Mountains that filled the reservoir and provided a rare opportunity for recreational boaters to float the river.

See this page in our multimedia library for drone-captured photos and videos of a historic hanging flume along the Dolores River and this page for imagery of the river near Gateway and Bedrock, Colorado.

Learn more:

DateMay 26, 2023
LocationDolores River and McPhee Reservoir, Colorado (map)
CreditMitch Tobin/The Water Desk with aerial support by LightHawk
RightsFree to reuse under Creative Commons license.

Selected images from the gallery

Click to enlarge

To use these images

Please read and consent to the terms and license below for access to the download page.

The Water Desk’s photo and video resources are part of our efforts to aid and enrich news coverage of Western water issues. Our imagery is shot by professional photojournalists and is available for free reuse under a Creative Commons noncommercial license.

To help us continue to offer this free material, we ask that you please:
  1. Credit the original photographer and the Water Desk as the source
  2. Email us a link to the published story at
  3. Consider sending The Water Desk your ideas for future content that we could add to the library
  4. Keep supporting professional photojournalists by hiring them for assignments

I understand and consent

< Show related galleries

Explore aerial, drone and ground-based imagery from The Water Desk