Miramonte Reservoir

This photo, shot with a drone, shows a diver immerse into Miramonte Reservoir to search for a presumed drowning victim. (Photo courtesy of San Miguel County Sheriff)


Miramonte Reservoir, the 405-acre body of water located about 20 miles south of Norwood, is like a hunk of Minnesota plunked down in the Rockies. 

As with visitors to the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” Miramonte’s patrons come for the superb recreation opportunities — whether camping, birding, fishing, water skiing, boating or kayaking. 

One such recreationist — an unnamed 21-year-old male kayaker — put in to Miramonte Wednesday afternoon in order to fish. According to authorities, a friend and fellow fisherman in a power boat encountered the man and they spoke. The boat pilot took off. When he returned to the area 10 minutes later, he saw his friend’s kayak had capsized. 

The boater called 911 shortly after 7 p.m. Wednesday. 

Although the Sheriff could not reveal or confirm the presumed victim’s name, sources told the Daily Planet it was Tanner Chesnut of Norwood. 

The San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office issued this alert Thursday morning: “Multi-agency search underway at Miramonte Reservoir for 21-year-old Norwood man last seen kayaking with friend early evening Wednesday. Natl dive team and regional assistance expected to arrive shortly.”

The sheriff’s 12:35 p.m. update seemed to confirm bad news: “Search continues for presumed drowning victim.”

The multiple agencies that responded to the call included the Grand County (Utah) Search & Rescue team — which brought a dog trained to locate bodies in water — and divers from the National Park System’s rescue unit based at Curecanti National Recreation Area.

At press time Thursday, divers had just re-entered Miramonte in the continuing search for a body. Authorities planned to search until dark and then resume searching Friday morning. According to Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Susan Lilly, authorities also were expecting a more advanced sonar searching device to arrive Friday.   

The sheriff’s post on the Miramonte recovery effort drew at least 120 sad reactions, 87 shares and 45 comments as of press time. Many commenters seemed to know the identity of the victim but refrained from saying so — instead opting for less specific salutations such as “God bless you buddy” and “love you broski!” and “Praying for a kid I truly love.”

Thursday marked an unusually busy time for the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office. Earlier in the day, Lilly issued a statement headlined: “Stage 1 Fire Restrictions Begin Monday.”  

“By order of Sheriff Bill Masters,” it declared, “unincorporated San Miguel County will be placed under Stage 1 Fire Restrictions effective Monday, May 21 at 6 a.m. due to exceptional drought conditions in the region. Restrictions include Telluride Fire Protection District, Norwood Fire Protection District and Egnar Fire Protection District.” 

The order will remain in place until June 4, when it could be renewed another 14 days, if necessary. 

Stage 1 fire restrictions prohibit building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire or stove fire except within a permanently constructed fire grate in a developed campground, developed recreation site or improved site.

The restrictions also outlaw smoking except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.

The Sheriff’s statement also noted that federally managed lands forever forbid fireworks, exploding targets and other incendiary devices, and that it’s always illegal to leave a fire unattended or unextinguished. 

Stage 1 restrictions permit the use of gas lanterns and stoves so long as they’re equipped with a valve that allows the operator to turn the flame on and off. 

According to Masters, it is each citizen’s responsibility to help prevent human-caused wildfires. “Fire danger is unusually high for our county and neighboring counties. Everyone needs to know and obey all fire restrictions.”

Ouray, Montrose and Delta counties are also being placed under Stage 1 Fire Restrictions, effective Monday. Dolores and San Juan counties have had restrictions in place since May 1st. 

Telluride Fire Protection District Chief John Bennett said Telluride is not currently at as high of a risk as the western part of San Miguel County. Still, he sees Stage 1 restrictions as a prudent measure: “Our job is to protect our people and property in our district from fires, and this is one very important step to help reduce that risk.”