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Cache la Poudre River, Colorado
2003

maps | mileage | flow | books | paddling: 2003 | 2004 | 2005




5/28/2003: Fort Collins. Cache la Poudre is famous as an excellent white water river. I am just discovering the Poudre for my flat water paddling. I paddled the Poudre in winter below Greeley starting from the South Platte River at very low level (~75cfs near Greeley) but I never tried it closer to home.


Cache la Poudre Canyon below Grey Rock Trail
("Bridges" section) in the end of June 2003
->
Poudre River
Poudre River

That night I took my racing canoe to Arapaho Bend Natural Area for some training before Texas Water Safari. However, instead of paddling calm waters of Beaver Pond, I decided to check the river. I parked at the end of the Horsetooth Road next to Strauss Cabin. The Poudre was flowing: the flow Fort Collins was decreasing from 700 to 400 cfs during the next few hours.

I started to paddle upstream about 6:00pm. I passed the burned Strauss Cabin. I managed to paddle under the railroad bridge with some junk and very strong current. Next, I passed two old bridges, archery range, another bridge (gravel pit?), and some logs and strainers. The river was pretty steep in places. Finally, I arrived to Environmental Learning Center and turned right, i.e., into the left calmer river leg. A couple of whitetail deer were surprized to see me on water. That leg turned to a narrow windy creeek flowing over rocks from the main river. I portaged that part and very soon reached the dam below the Prospect Street after about 2.5 miles of upstream paddling. You can see that dam from a bike trail.

Poudre River - Environmental Learning Center

I turned around and paddled downstream along the right river leg. I tried to shoot a series of pictures to stitch them together to a panarama, but had trouble to keep my camera steady due to a combined effect of aggressive mosquitos and upstream paddling. A little further the river was blocked by a log jam forcing me to another short portage. Paddling downstream the narrow and fast river with some obstacles was, of course, much easier than going upstream but, at the same time, somewhat more tricky and dangerous in 20' racing boat. It was about sunset when I returned back to my launching spot.

The paddling was just too great to stop there so I continued downstream under bridges of I-25. I paddled about 1.8 miles until I passed Timnath and saw the Harmony Road bridge. It was quite dark when I was back under I-25. The strong current was hitting the southbound bridge pilar creating a powerfull eddy. I needed three attempts to pass that trap in the upstream direction. Two another places with a narrow channel and rapid current provided me more than enough of good workout.

I finished my paddling about 9:00. I carried a head lamp but I did not used it. However, it was good to see a street light at the parking lot. It was a great safari training since that part of the Poudre was quite similar to the San Marcos River in Texas and I built some confidence in my new wing paddle (Proton by Quick Blade).


5/30/2003: Fort Collins. The same part of the river and the same time of day, but the river was almost a foot higher than during my previous paddling. The flow was changing from 1000 to 800 cfs. The river was rougher with much faster current making upstream paddling even more challenging. I flipped over in an eddy below the archery range where the river was coming close to I-25, so I had opportunity to examine closer a high cliff and some rocks there. In two other places the current appeared to be too strong for me to paddle upstream and I needed to drag my boat along the shore. The river was steaming, there was a lot of fog in some spots and occasional showers. Finally, I reached the quiet water at the Environmental Learning Center. It was around sunset and I could see a little bit of orange sky between heavy dark clouds.

Downstream paddling was great but I needed to pay attention to two nasty strainers. They looked quite different at higher water level. According to my GPS I made 4.6 miles (upstream + downstream) in 1:35h of moving time and 0:45h of stopping time, however the GPS worked somewhat erratic due to a tree canopy over the narrow river. It was great workout again but I enjoyed more the previous trip under lower water level.


7/04/2003: Fort Collins. It was my first paddling after the return from Texas Water Safari. I started again at my launching spot at the end of the Horsetooth Road but that time in the morning (7:50) and started to paddle upstream. The river flow at Ft. Collins was ~220cfs, so much lower than during my two previous trips. It was much easier to go upstream but I had to walk through several rocky places with a strong current. They were too shallow to paddle. I visited the slow left river leg at the Environmental Learning Center, and then, paddled further upstream the narrower right leg portaging over the already familiar log jam. Poudre River
Poudre River I found two diversion dams between the ELC and Prospect Street. First one just above the ELC (a short portage along bike trail on right shore) and the next one higher not much further upstream (a portage on left shore). The upstream dam is shown on left. I paddled under the Prospect bridge, and after walking through one more rapid I reached the Timberline street after 2:45h of paddling.
It was getting too hot, so at the Timberline I decided that I deserve some easier paddling and turned around. Going downstream was pleasant and not without some excitement in tight fast turning. It didn't take longer than 45 minutes including three portages. The diversion dams were taking a lot of water and the river was getting much smaller.

During the next day or so, the water flow dropped down to ~20cfs in Fort Collins, although, it was still plenty of water in the Poudre Canyon for white water fun.

Poudre River


maps | mileage | flow | books | paddling: 2003 | 2004 | 2005


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