Thu - November 3, 2005

From Windsor to Greeley with High Water on Poudre River

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Pentax Optio W20 / W10
The Poudre River is fed by snow melting in Rocky Mountains, so a typical paddling season starts sometime in May. It lasts till July or sometimes till August depending on the actual snow pack. For the rest of the year the river turns into a trickle. Even during the season when whitewater paddlers have fun in the Poudre canyon, the river diverted by numerous dams not always really flows below Fort Collins where I usually paddle.

However, it is worth to watch on-line data from water gauges along the river. Later in the year, the Poudre is used to transport water from Horsetooth Reservoir downstream to South Platte River and further to reservoirs in the Weld County. I enjoyed such a water event in October 2004. The river water was flowing for almost two weeks. In addition to several shorter trips I paddled the Poudre from Fort Collins to the 83rd Street at Greeley. I wouldn't recommend paddling the Poudre below Timnath due to several barbed wire fences crossing the river, but further from Windsor to Greeley the river was quite nice and easy to paddle.

This year we had a short water episode at the beginning of September. I managed to paddle only once starting from the Arapaho Bend Natural Area. At ~120cfs the river was OK for paddling downstream, but I had to walk several shallow places when going upstream with my whitewater Seda Cyclone kayak.

In the end of October we got water again: up to 1000 cfs in Fort Collins and more than 500 cfs in Greeley. Almost a week! On Sunday (10/29/2005) I took advantage of this flow and paddled Sisson Nucleus kayak from Windsor to Greeley. Connie and Dax provided car shuttle and land support. I started from Kodak Eastman Park at a bike trail bridge. The upstream stretch of the river is nice but would require three portages below CR 13: one fallen tree and two diversion dams. The day was cloudy with rain showers, not very good for photography, but not so bad for paddling.

The river was really high. First few miles of paddling were fast and easy. The only potential hazard may be appear under the railroad bridge just above highway 256. I found a clear passage on the right side. A mile further dowstream there was a narrow concrete bridge. I recommend to listen for a sound of rapid and stop for scouting well in advance. I found a low clearance and high standing waves under the bridge - a bad combination. Portage!

A couple miles dowsntream there was another obstacle. A diversion dam just below a bike trail bridge. At that water level it was possible to run over the dam, but fallen trees below would make running quite risky. Portage again!

A year ago I had a hard time with a barbed wire fence below that dam. A strong current and no option for portage. Somehow, I squeezed between wires in the middle of the river without tearing apart my drysuit. So, this year I took a tool to cut wires in the case of emergency. Fortunately, I was able to paddle above the fence without any problems.

The next diversion was above 51st Street and there was also a fence across the river 200 yards below the dam. So, the portage happen to be a longer one. Further downstream I met one more dam which I run without any problem. There was a lot of birds on the river: ducks, herons, bald eagles, hawks, owls, kingfishers. I saw more birds in the vicinity of Greeley.

The river channel was getting narrower, twisty with water running above banks. A few times I got trapped in eddies when trying to avoid strong current pushing me under bushes or trees. I had to turn around in the narrow channel not much wider than the length of my kayak. During one of such turnings I missed a stroke and went swimming. I guess I was getting tired and loosing concentration. Fortunately, the water wasn't too cold. I was just a mile above 35th Street, so I decided to paddle further without changing into dry clothes and finish there. Connie was with Dax nearby in the Rover Dog Park. Originally, I was hopping to paddle a few miles further to Island Grove Park. When we were driving back we met more showers. Wind was blowing leaves.

The current slide presentation cover the paddling trip. I am going to include more pictures shot during my recent biking and inline skating along the Poudre Trail between Windsor and Greeley. I will also add milage and a map to my Poudre River Guide. I still have to explore a few miles left to the confluence with the South Platte River. I've covered the lowest two miles of the Poudre paddling upstream from the South Platte. All pictures were shot with Pentax Optio WP camera which was wet most of the time from rain and from my swimming.

GPS trip odometer: 16.0 miles, moving time: 2:40h, stopping time: 0:58h, average moving speed: 6.0 mph, max speed: 11.0 mph.

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Posted at 03:54 PM    

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