- 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.
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.