South Platte River

The South Platte River drains a vast section of Colorado's front range. The river basin encompasses over 19,000 square miles. The North Fork originates in the peaks around Mt. Evans and Rocky Mountain National Park. The South Fork forms in South Park many miles away.

In between, a half dozen substantial tributaries feed the waters. North to south, the Cache la Poudre, the Big Thompson, St. Vrain, Boulder Creek, Clear Creek, and Tarryall Creek contribute to the flow.

These days the South Platte Basin is far from a natural state. Many reservoirs have been created along the river and its tributaries: Lake Granby, Grand Lake, Carter Lake, Horsetooth Reservoir, Chatfield Reservoir, Cherry Creek Reservoir, Barr Lake, Riverside Reservoir, Empire Reservoir, Sterling Reservoir, and Julesburg Reservoir.

The highlight for paddlers is the wild and scenic Cache la Poudre. Convenient access, clear water, challenging rapids, and beautiful scenery make this a river-runner's paradise. Other tributaries can offer whitewater excitement at various points in the season.

Fishermen will find the South Platte ranks as one of Colorado's Gold Medal trout streams, a designation reserved for high quality habitats with potential trophies awaiting the angler. The headwaters of the South Fork are particularly notable. In the South Park area, the waters downstream from Spinney Mountain Reservoir and below Cheesman Dam are truly rewarding. But anglers chase rainbow and brown trout throughout the river.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 17 May 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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