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General Information

Description - The South Platte River is a world-class fishery, offering some of the finest tail water fishing in the state. This river has it all; proximity to Denver, lots of big fish, consistent insect hatches and outrageous scenery. Although it doesn't have the best whitewater opportunities, there are definitely possibilities and the lack of boaters only makes the fishing better.

Recreation - The South Platte offers many and varied fishing opportunities. The Cheesman Canyon has crystal clear water and wild rainbow and brown trout. This section of the South Platte holds approximately 5,200 trout per mile that average 15 inches in length. These fish are eager yet selective. Though at times difficult, this section can also produce days that fly fishers dream about. Fish this section year-round. Check spring water flows: it is best between 150 and 250 c.f.s., flows above 500 c.f.s. make fly fishing difficult.

Downstream from Cheesman Canyon fisherman can enjoy another incredible section of the South Platte. From the Wigwam Club to Trumbull there are usually about 7,000 rainbow trout per mile in a very picturesque setting. This section fishes well year-round, although very cold spells in winter can slow the fishing.

The South Park section of the South Platte is characterized by oxbows. There are over 50 miles of public access to this Gold Medal water. This section holds brown trout up to ten pounds that migrate here for the summer. During the summer the many hatches often provide excellent surface fishing. Above Spinney Reservoir fish April to mid-October. Rainbows and cutthroats from Spinney Reservoir to Elevenmile Canyon spawn from April-May. Browns migrate from Spinney Reservoir from July - September. Fish below the reservoir year round. Heavy runoff above the reservoir mid-May to June all but eliminates fishing.

There are three runs for boaters on the South Platte if you are willing to expend the effort: the Waterton Canyon, South Fork of the South Platte above confluence and the South Fork of the South Platte below Cheesman Reservoir. The Waterton Canyon is a 1.3 mile Class IV run, with the put-in at the confluence of the North & South Platte and the takeout at Strontia Springs Reservoir. The South Fork above the confluence is a Class II to III run that lasts for three miles. This is primarily a beginners run, but it is a popular teaching section. The only really notable water is the Chutes which is a Class III+ during rare high flows. The South Fork below Cheesman is a Class IV run which lasts for six miles. But you have to decide for yourself if it is worth it as there is a pretty good hike into it. The put-in for this run is below the Cheesman Reservoir Dam, and the takeout is at Deckers.

Climate - The South Platte River is situated in high mountainous altitudes. Persons coming from lower elevations should be aware that time is needed to adjust to the higher elevations.

Warm days and cool to freezing nights can be expected in the mountains during the summer. July and August are usually the warmest months. During this time afternoon thunderstorms are common. Be prepared for both warm and chilly weather, as well as for rain showers.

Being at high elevation and fueled mainly by melting snow, the South Platte is a rather cold river. During the spring runoff the river is full of freshly melted snow, and the temperature of the water is especially cold.
Please make sure that you dress appropriately when participating in whitewater sports. Wear shoes that can protect feet if you bounce off rocks or walk out of a canyon in the event of an accident. Wet suits are mandatory when air and water temperature added together total 100 degrees or less. If total is less than 80 degrees, a full set of waterproof or wool garments on top of the wet suit should be worn.

Location - Cheesman Canyon Section:
From the Denver area, drive west on Highway 285 to the town of Pine Junction. Turn south and take Pine Valley Road approximately 20 miles to the parking areas and access just above the private Wigwam Club. Take the Gill Trail into the canyon. You can also drive to Cheesman Reservoir, hike around and down into the upper portion of the canyon. But this route is more difficult, especially the return.

Wigwam Club to Trumbull:
Drive west from the Denver area on Highway 285 to Pine Junction. There take Highway 126 south approximately 20 miles to the town of Deckers. Here you can drive parallel to the river on Colorado 67. This dirt road provides access to the river.

South Park Area:
From Denver drive west on Highway 285 to Fairplay; take 285 south for the upper South Fork, or Highway 9 south for the Middle Fork and lower South Fork.


Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Trip Reports:
Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

Filed By: robert volpe (woodland park, CO)
Number of People Encountered: 25-50 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Standing on a gravel bar up stream from the Deckers bridge I was surrounded by lots of fish and lots of people. Me and the guy next to me threw everything we had at the schools with little success. Best time to fish here is weekdays. BWO and hoppers are begining to show.

Filed By: Visitor (Huntington, WV)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Not Recommended
Report: I was on a trip to visit my son in Denver and thought I would try fly fishing the South Platte below Cheesman Dam. I was on the South Platte Rive Road at the junction of Pine Creek Road and thought I would try a small section of river at the parking area provided there. I was on the river at around 7:30 am on a Wednesday morning 4/19/06. I went down stream about 500 yards and started fishing back to my car. I did not have any luck, rod tip and line icing. I got back to my car about 8:30 am to find the glass broken out of the rear door and all my fishing equipment stolen. I have fished for 30 years on the trout streams of West Virginia and parked my car in some secluded spaces. I have never had my property violated. So, I can't say much for fishing Colorado waters. I doubt I will buy an out of state license and try it again. I am writing this report to warn other anglers of the theft possibilities on this stream. I can't imagine it was other than local residence at that time of the morning who would have committed the theft. So, beware of the possible loss of property if you leave your car unattended on the South Platte River below Deckers.

Filed By: Jib Johnson
Number of People Encountered: 50+ ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: I fished the South Platte under Cheesman Dam on Friday July 9. I caught a total of 14 fish, 13 of which were rainbows. The average size of the fish caught I had were 15 inches but the largest I caught was 23 inches. I highly recomend it. I was using a #20 parachute adams, #22 red copper john, #12 joe's hopper, and #20 tan elk hair caddis. Great surface action. Go!

Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Myself and my son went fishing at eleven mile canyon on july 5 2003. Got there early, not to crowded for a holiday weekend. We caught 12 fish, 2- 16" browns, and a 18" FOOTBALL rainbow. These were the big ones, the others avereged 10"-14". We were using small spinners on 4lb flourocarbon. We saw plenty of fish, but it just got to crowded, so we hung it up. During the previous week we had even better luck. I would highly recommend this spot. The 2 miles below eleven mile reservoir is lure and fly only, and the best section.

Filed By: Kyle Willingham (Amarillo, TX)
Number of People Encountered: 25-50 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: My brother-in-law and I fished the South Platte between Spinney and Elevenmile on July 13,2002. We saw probably 200 fish! It looked like a hatchery! When we get to Heaven, this section of river will be there. Anyway, we were using trico spinners, rs2's, beadhead nymphs, parachute adams, the only thing that we didn't throw was a chernobyl ant! (should have tried it...) We aren't catching a thing when this kid walks by, I ask him if he's having any luck and what he is fishing with. He says that he has caught six fish using a #6 green and yellow wooly booger! His dad was using the same thing and bringing them in as well. If you're planning a trip to the 'Miracle Mile' or 'Dream Stream' don't forget to bring your arsenal of wooly boogers! We also saw a husband and wife team get a 24' (at least) rainbow to the net three times before it spit the hook out!


More Information

Additional Information:
Colorado Rivers & Streams - Colorado's rivers and streams are characterized by steep continuous drops in the mountains and slow moving big rivers in the plains. In the west the Colorado river and its many tributaries cut through the desert. Excellent fishing opportunities can be found throughout the state.

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