South Platte - 05. Waterton Canyon

South Platte, Colorado, US


05. Waterton Canyon (Confluence to Strontia Springs Reservoir)

Usual Difficulty III-IV (for normal flows)
Length 1 Miles
Avg. Gradient 74 fpm

Avalanche from the eddy

Avalanche from the eddy
Photo of Kraig Lund by Will Reeves taken 09/27/07 @ 480 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
codwr-PLASPLCO0 300 - 5000 cfs III-IV 25d09h42m 228 cfs (too low)

River Description

The South Platte River in Waterton canyon is a short run, good for regulars afterwork or while in the neighborhood. There is no shuttle. Simply walk back up to the cars at put-in.

The Waterton Canyon run starts out as a mild moving stream with only a few small waves.  1/8 to a 1/4 mile into the run, the river picks up a little., and the run starts to develop character. 

Waterton has plenty of play spots with typical Colorado roadblast rocks in the riverbed.

S-turn rapid ends in a pool with an horizon line at medium to low flows.

The horizon line marks Green Bridge rapid. 

This drop is fairly straightforward but note: There is rebar on the old bridge piling if you choose one of the less obvious lines.

Below Green Bridge Rapid is a small pool followed up by Avalanche rapid, straightforward on the right with a broaching rock on river left.
After another small pool you will arrive at Vertical Blender.  This drop has two distinct ledges and some holes. The bottom of Vertical Blender is the reservoir and the takeout.

Better action at higher flows.

Historical note: A great whitewater canyon was once downstream of Waterton.

The former canyon was inundated by the DWB Denver Water Board to make Stronia Springs and thus drown the former true Waterton canyon.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-10-16 23:38:42


Stream team editor

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.3S-Turn / InitiationIIIPlayspot Photo
0.6Green Bridge RapidIII+Photo
1.0Vetical BlenderIII+Takeout Playspot Photo

Rapid Descriptions

S-Turn / Initiation (Class III, Mile 0.3)

S turn

S turn
Photo of Jeff by Will Reeves taken 09/27/07 @ 480 cfs

This is a extensive almost 1/2 mile long rapid.  Most of this is wave train with holes and eddies.

Green Bridge Rapid (Class III+, Mile 0.6)

Green Bridge Rapid

Green Bridge Rapid
Photo of Kraig Lund by Will Reeves @ 480 cfs

Green Bridge Rapid follows a short pool after S turn.  This rapid is most straightforward on river left but there are some tight lines through the rocks on the right.  Beware of rebar int eh middle of the river.

Avalanche/Landslide (Class III, Mile 0.8)


Photo of Al Johnston by Will Reeves @ 480 cfs

The name says it all.  There was a landslide on river left and this fairly straight forward drop is what you have to negotiate.  The right side line is easier than the left (which has a pinning/broach rock).

Vetical Blender (Class III+, Mile 1.0)

Vertical Blender

Vertical Blender
Photo of Kraig Lund by Will Reeves @ 480 cfs

Vertical Blender is a series of two ledges with some nice waves and stomping holes.  Playboating here is ok at some levels.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
August 28 2017 (512 days ago)
sazza68 (159478)
I agree with the below comment, this is a difficult III+, arguable IV-. Not sure if the river has
changed since the above photos were taken or if the river was higher than the poster thought, but
that is not what green bridge rapid looks like below 500. I don't know the cut off, but for sure
anything below 550, you need to take the far river left line, as far left as you can be, almost
grazing your elbow on that bridge debris. There's a tongue that is just about boat width. If you
run this rapid where the person in the photo ran it at low levels, you're gonna have a bad time.
Give it a scout and you'll see what I mean. It looks friendly from above. It's not. This run has
several undercut rocks and sieves. It is boney, full of sharp rocks, and technical at lower water;
fast and pushy at high water. Not for beginners.
September 28 2016 (846 days ago)
Justlive (157352)
I consider this the hardest III+ in the state with an argumental IV- ( vertical blender). However,
I have only run it below 1000 cfs. I can imagine it will be very difficult at higher water. This is
an amazing run of fun. Rest at least 3 times on the hike out to save the torture.
January 20 2012 (2559 days ago)
Nik and Allison WhiteDetails
Changed the gauge to match the one you listed. If you have any better info about flows please let
me know.
May 9 2011 (2815 days ago)
Laurie MaciagDetails
The correct gauge for this run is this: The one
currently linked is not accurate.