The South Platte River is loved by Denverites who enjoy being able to step out of their high-rise apartments to play in the water at Confluence Park. Water enthusiasts can be seen kayaking, tubing and fishing on the South Platte right in the heart of the city.
The South Platte River is a tributary of the Platte River but does not join the Platte until it reaches Nebraska. The South Platte forms in the South Park grasslands in Park County, Colorado, south of Fairplay east of Hartsel. Its formed from the confluence of the Middle Fork and South Fork of the South Platte River. The South Platte then travels for 439 miles through seven dams.
The North Platte River begins in Jackson County in the North Park basin, and flows north then southeast to combine with the South Platte River, forming the Platte River in Nebraska.
South Platte River Route
The South Platte River flows out of Spinney Mountain Reservoir and into Elevenmile Canyon Reservoir, a stretch of the river known as the Dream Stream for its epic fishing. After leaving the South Park basin the South Platte flows to the northeast through the Pike National Forest and the fly fishing community of Deckers.
From here it enters Platte Canyon where it joins Waterton Canyon in Littleton and spills into Chatfield Reservoir. It then travels north through central Denver before rushing past Brighton, Fort Lupton and Greeley. Just east of Greeley the river takes a turn towards the east and passes through Fort Morgan and Brush before passing Sterling and leaving Colorado.
The South Platte was integral to the formation of Denver. The city was founded on its banks and was fed by its waters. Today countless communities rely on the South Platte to feed their reservoirs.
The first dam that the Middle Fork of the South Platte runs into is the Antero Dam. After being stopped at Antero Reservoir the river flows until it hits the Spinney Mountain Reservoir.
From there it flows to Elevenmile Canyon Reservoir. It is dammed again at Cheesman Reservoir southwest of Deckers, which was completed in 1905 before flowing towards the Stronita Springs Reservoir, located northwest of Deckers.
The North Fork of the South Platte River also joins up with the South Platte just before the Stronita Springs Reservoir. From there it passes through its final dam at Chatfield Reservoir.
Activities on the South Platte River
Along its 439 mile route the South Platte River offers Coloradans countless recreational opportunities including kayaking, paddle boarding and Gold Medal fishing. In addition to the aforementioned Dream Stream section of the South Platte River in South Park, there are plenty of other chances to catch a trophy fish.
The Gold Medal fishing spots that are located on the South Platte can be found three miles below Cheesman Dam. This is a catch and release only site so please plan to bring something else for dinner. 14 miles of the river wind through public land from Deckers and offer ample opportunities for anglers to catch trout.
People looking to fish closer to Denver can access the river at numerous spots between C-470 north and 104th Street. Anglers fishing here can expect to catch carp, smallmouth and largemouth bass, catfish, walleye and bluegill.
Non-motorized watercraft are allowed on the South Platte. The river can be accessed on the public land located at Deckers and can also be accessed in multiple places starting just south of Chatfield Reservoir.
One popular place for kayakers is a 5.4 mile stretch of the South Platte that can be accessed just north of C-470 and runs along the Mary Carter Greenway Trail. This stretch of river offers around 6 very short class 2 rapids and takes about four hours to paddle at a moderate pace.
For people who do not want to get wet, there are numerous spots along the river for picnicking and several trails that follow the river including The Colorado Trail and South Platte River Trail. These trails are excellent for biking, running and walking.
Located in downtown Denver at the confluence of the South Platte River with Cherry Creek, Confluence Park offers a spectacular place for simple strolls, sightseeing, picnics, and even summer river tubing.
- Commerce City
- Fort Lupton
- Fort Morgan
Length: 439 miles
- Middle Fork of South Platte
- South Fork of South Platte
- North Fork of South Platte
- Clear Creek
- Cache La Poudre River
- Cherry Creek
- Big Thompson River
- Platte River (in Nebraska)