The South Platte River forms in the Pike National Forest of northern Park County, Colorado between Breckenridge and Alma near Hoosier Pass (elevation 11,541 feet msl), then flows southeast to Elevenmile Canyon Reservoir at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument before turning to flow northeast through Cheesman Reservoir, into and through Denver to Greeley, where it then flows east by northeast to its confluence with the North Platte River at North Platte, Nebraska. It is a major Colorado waterway that is fed by numerous rivers and creeks including Clear Creek, Boulder Creek, Bear Creek, Big Thompson and Little Thompson Rivers, North and South Saint Vrain Creeks and others. The river is rated from Class I to V in various sections, and most tributary streams are rated Class IV to V+, or even VI.
The North Fork of the South Platte River flows out of Dillon Reservoir in Summit County just south of IH 70, on the opposite side of the Colorado River from the Blue River. From Pine Valley Open Space to the South Platte River confluence the North Fork flows as the Foxton run, a very scenic Class III to IV- whitewater run that is well suited to canoes with flotation and kayaks, though rafts would find it difficult to navigate the tight channel and often shallow water. Boaters should have at least strong intermediate level whitewater skills to safely navigate this reach of the North Fork. Scenery along the run is almost as awesome as the grantire boulders that adorn the riverbed on the upper half of this reach. Four excellent access points allow choosing the area where you want to paddle.
Runs begin at 6,825 feet msl, then drop about 823 feet in 8 miles on an average gradient of about 103 fpm. The first two miles drops at 177.5 fpm, flattens to about 62 fpm between the Cloud Crest Access and Dome Rock, then finishes at about 60 fpm down to the South Platte River confluence. The surrounding area is a very popular summertime destination, especially on weekends, for bicyclists, hikers and campers.
Westcentral Jefferson County in central Colorado southwest of Denver. Colorado Springs and Pueblo are 2-3 hours to the southeast.
Denver 45 miles; Colorado Springs 125 miles; Pueblo 167 miles; Grand Junction 234 miles; Durango 340 miles; Salt Lake City 519 miles; Albuquerque 505 miles; Phoenix 963 miles; Oklahoma City 695 miles; Dallas 842 miles; Austin 1,013 miles; San Antonio 1,103 miles; Houston 1,209 miles; Little Rock 986 miles; Kansas City 651 miles; (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)
The North Fork of the South Platte River flows clean, clear and cold most of the time, but is not drinkable without purification. This section is rated Class III to IV with huge granite boulder gardens and occasional tree debris. It usually flows from March through October, depending upon dam releases at Dillon Reservoir.
The Foxton run on the North Fork of the South Platte River is prime from June through August or September, though it usually flows from March through October, depending upon the amount of water being released from Dillon Reservoir, which get its water from the Colorado and Blue Rivers, Colorado River tributaries above the confluence with the Blue River and winter snowpack in the drainage basin. Spring to summer rainfall may add additional flow. Check the gauge at Grant before going.
There are no significant hazards along the Foxton run of the North Fork for competent boaters in whitewater canoes and kayaks with at least strong intermediate level whitewater skills. However, numerous granite boulders form a zig-zag path along the channel requiring fast and effective maneuvering to avoid pinning and/or wrapping. Boaters should be prepared to take evasive actions to prevent mishaps in these boulder gardens.
Pine Valley Open Space, off 126 Road near Pine, on river left at about 0.0 miles; Cloud Rest Area below the Town of Buffalo Creek and 126 Road on river left at about 2.0 miles; Dome Rock area on river left at about 6.5 miles; Confluence access at 96 Road and SH 67, where the North Fork and the South Platte River meet, at about 8.0 miles. There may be other access points for this section of the North Fork.
There are no campgrounds located along the North Fork of the South Platte River. Duck Creek Campground is located just north of Grant, on the east side of an unknown county road off US Highway 285 between Grant and IH 70. Buffalo and Kelsey campgrounds are available on the west and east sides of SH 67, respectively, near the North Fork of the South Platte River confluence. Devils Head Campground is located just east of Decker. Duck Creek, Buffalo, Kelsey and Devils Head Campgrounds are all located with the boundries of Pike National Forest. Corral Creek Access, about 7.3 miles below US Highway 285/24 on river left, offers riverside primitive campsites. Happy Meadows Campground, on river right just below the US Highway 285/24 bridge, offers excellent campground facilites just outside the Town of Lake George. Elevenmile Canyon State Recreation Area, on river left above the dam, offers excellent campground facilities.
At least four known commercial outfitters offer rentals, shuttles, guided trips and/or river information on the South Platte River.
This scenic area is a great place to practice whitewater boating skills in preparation for bigger streams elsewhere. The North Fork area becomes very popular with all sorts of outdoors recreationists during summer months, and weekends will be the busiest time along the river. Beware of ever-changing water levels that are regulated by dam releases at Dillon Reservoir. Its close proximity to the Denver metro area makes it easy to reach, and every conceivable service paddlers need is nearby. Bring your camera, but secure it in a drybag or waterproof case when not in use.