Cache La Poudre - 02. Big South Campground to Tunnel Picnic Ground

Cache La Poudre, Colorado, US


02. Big South Campground to Tunnel Picnic Ground (Spencer Heights)

Usual Difficulty V (for normal flows)
Length 2.4 Miles
Avg. Gradient 162 fpm
Max Gradient 196 fpm

BL in Spencer Heights

BL in Spencer Heights
Photo of Brent Laubaugh by Paul Lang taken 6/01

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
codwr-CLAFTCCO0 300 - 900 cfs V 48d17h06m 76.7 cfs (too low)

River Description

The first mile of this run is typical Colorado whitewater. Bouncy undefined Class IV in a boulder garden riverbed. At Rocket Launcher(V) the character takes a turn as the river cuts into bedrock. Get out to scout when you see a large house-sized rock spliting the current. Most paddlers will run Rocket Launcher until the day they get stuck in the hole at the bottom, from that day on they all walk it... Just downstream is Poudre Falls, have your takeout eddy pre-scouted for this one. This series of 3 waterfalls could be described as the perfect nightmare. If it wasn't for the last fall Poudre Falls would be run all the time. The last waterfall has incredibly lethal consequences, and the odds of being upright and in control by the last fall are slim to none. All but a select few sickos portage without a seconds thought. The gorge just below the falls(V-) is fun and pushy, it looks big but just run it down the middle. There will be one more big rapid(V) before crossing under Highway 14. Directly after the bridge is Boneyard(V), watch out for the undercut on the bottom right (it's paddler magnetic). For the next 1/2 mile you are in a narrow gorge, there are a few Class V drops in here. Watch out for wood, it has a tendancy to wedge between the narrow walls badly. After the gorge you have 2 more good Class V rapids before the takeout. Don't snooze, the river will appear to be mellowing out before these rapids.

The correlation between the gauge at the canyon mouth and this run isn't very reliable, especially at low flows.  The outflow from the upstream reservoirs can make a big difference,  and the inflow from the Laramie River tunnel (right at the takeout) can inflate the lower readings.  Water levels in this run can rise very quickly from snowmelt on a hot spring day.

As of 2012, the best gauge is painted on a rock on river right, just downstream from the highway bridge at the top of Boneyard.  2.5 on this gauge is medium; above 3 is probably high (have a good look!).  At high water, a couple very sticky, powerful, and hard-to miss holes form in the gorge below Boneyard.

To get there: The put-in is the CO14 bridge at Big South Fork Campground. Tunnel Picnic area, near the cascade from the Laramie River diversion, is the takeout

See Colorado Rivers and Creeks II, by Banks and Eckardt (The Bible), for info on this and most of the other kewl runs of Colorado.  Or the more recent Whitewater of the Southern Rockies by Stafford and McCutchen.

Lat/longitude coords are approximate, from TopoZone.

See also,

Big South (Class V/VI),
Joe Wright Creek (Class V),
Spencer Heights (Class V/VI),
South Fork (Class IV/V),
White Mile Run/Upper Rustic (Class III),
Grandpa's Gorge/Lower Rustic (Class III/IV),
The Narrows (Class IV/V/V+),
Upper Mishawaka (Class III/IV),
Lower Mishiwaka (Class III),
Poudre Park (Class IV),
Bridges (Class III/IV),
Upper North Fork (Class IV/V),
Lower North Fork (Class II/III), and
Filter Plant (Class III).



StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2012-05-12 19:09:40


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Rapid Descriptions

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User Comments

Users can submit comments.
July 15 2001 (6398 days ago)
The rapid below the bridge has a nasty undercut that comes into play at low flows. The cave is big
enuf to hold a perception overflow and its driver. The undercut is on the right bank next to the
bottom hole.