Sat - November 19, 2005

Deer Island - Dangerous Spot on South Platte River Some 50 miles below Denver ?

South Platte River , Greeley
Eight o'clock the next morning found us moving onward toward Deer Island, which we soon reached. Here, for the space of two miles, the water seemed to have a greater fall, and a far more rapid current, than at Denver. Having heard so many stories regarding the dangers at this place, which had wrecked all former expeditions of a similar nature, we naturally approached the spot with a feeling of awe mingled with the gravest doubts. Every man remained at his post with that determination of purpose that is reached only under the most desperate circumstances.

As we entered the channel the angry waves seized our little craft and sent it forward at a greatly increased rate of speed, as if they would dash it to pieces. This increased our alarm, but not a word was spoken, as the foaming, surging waters carried us onward, except an occasional command from the bow. With Jackson at the rudder, Matthews at the "lookout," and Smith and myself alternating at the oars, we held the Rover to the channel and dodged the snags with great precision. Thus, by dint of the most most persevering efforts, we steered clear of all dangers, though nearly exhausted, and glided out upon the comparatively clam waters of the Platte beyond.

About three years previous, two disheartened miners, while attempting the voyage between Denver and the Missouri, had been wrecked at his point; the body of one being washed ashore just below the island, where it was found by herders, portions of the canoe were also found later, but further down the stream.

This was an excerpt from "A thousand miles in a canoe: Or, A canoe voyage from Denver, Colorado, to Leavenworth, Kansas during the summer of 1867", a book written by Dean Perceval and published in 1880. I've found the book, I was asking about a couple of weeks ago. I've got it on a microfilm through interlibrary loan and scanned all pages. I will be writing more about that voyage.

Where is that Deer Island? According to the book: "Deer Island, some fifty or sixty miles below Denver". According to my GPS software it could be somewhere between Evans and Kersey, so in the river stretch used for a popular easy club paddling trip in early spring. And, it is where I paddle during winter season .

Of course, they didn't have GPS, so some fifty or sixty miles may be not very accurate. Nevertheless, it would be difficult to find today such an interesting river segment between Denver and Fort Morgan. The river could look somewhat different without a diversion dam every few miles. I should add that the 1867 trip took place in June at high water after heavy snowstorm.

So, has anybody heard about Deer Island somewhere in the Weld County? On some maps you can still find a mysterious name of Scout Island at the confluence of Cache la Poudre and South Platte Rivers, but it must be a different story.

Related posts on paddling South Platte River in Colorado below Denver.

Posted at 10:08 AM    

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