South Platte: Highway 76 Commerce City to Brighton
Length of Trip: 13 miles
Gradient: 0 ft/mile
Difficulty: Class I-I+ at 200+ CFS with one class III-IV which can be portaged and three dam portages.
High Water Flows: May-July, boatable year-round.
Flow: Call Watertalk @ 831-7135, Division 1, Station 48 for current river levels at 7 miles below the take out.
Scenery: C+ There are many birds, cotton wood trees, and other wildlife. There is a bike path that follows the first part of this run. Manmade debri can be found in and along the river. The views of the Rockies and the wildlife help offset the debri and the bike path to make this an enjoyable run.
Put-In: North of Denver, take Hwy 76 East from I-25 to Exict 8, go left on 224 back to river and put in at the Bike Path Parking on the Southwest side of the bridge after you cross the river.
Take-Out: From the put-in, go East on Rt. 224 to join highway 76, bare left to go north on highway 85 for 12.5 miles to the Brighton exict. Go left on Rt. 52, for 1/2 mile to Veterans Park. The park will be on your right just before you cross the river.
Description: A wonderful run for people to veiw wildlife. On just one run, you could see Snappers, Herons, Muskrat, Hawks, Owls, Eagles, Beavers, Fox just to mention some of the wildlife. This is a great Nature trip. I found this run to be quite in many areas, with very little boater traffic. When the bike path moves away from the river, you have woods, fields, and personal houses/farms along the river. You start the trip alongside a bike path. The run is a straight forward class I-II run until you reach a boat chute. The boat chute is by far the hardest runable water on this section. The rapid is class II by definition, as all you do is paddle like crazy down the middle of the chute. The problem comes in when the holes slow you down and you start playing the holes, then the rapid can become class IV in a hurry. The boat chute is a series of holes about 10-15' apart, one after another. The holes are large enough depending on water levels, to swamp out a canoe, or stop and surf a kayak or raft for quite a while. I might suggest the river left portage on the bike path as the easiest route, but if you feel inclined, the boat chute is runnable. I do not like man-made drops, as they have a tendency to be made with concrete, which to me is like taking coarse sandpaper to your skin if you happen to swim. The rest of the run is class II, with three portages. The first dam to portage is a lowhead dam with what appears to be private property on both sides. What ever you do, please do not run the dam. If you made it over the dam, the wood pilons at the bottom would give you quite a bit of trouble. The next two dams you should portage on the right. There are many river hazards to be aware of besides the dams, including many strainers, (giant cotton wood trees in the river) bridge abuttments, fences along the shore and into the water, cement blocks on the banks and into the water, pieces of steel, all with debri piled up on them.
Even with all these hazards, this run is still a good run for beginners, and especially nature lovers, you just need to be a little careful. The portages of the dams prevent this run from being a busy run, so the boater traffic is light, and very young families may have some difficulty with the portages, otherwise this is a great family run for 6 year olds and up. The water is warm compared to other rivers in Colorado, there are eddies to catch, small waves to surf, and a meandering channel to find in the river bed. There are sand beaches to enjoy and camping spots among the cotton woods. There are small islands, and shoals to manuever around, with lots of wildlife in and along the river.
Great for kayaks, canoes, rafts, duckies, sea kayaks, and most any other boat that can be run down rivers.