Camping Along The Cache la Poudre River in Colorado
Camping on the Cache la Poudre River is one of the best ways to experience the recreational opportunities that are available to visitors to this wilderness area. The Poudre River is the destination of many Colorado vacationers and also a favorite playground of the local residents of the northern Front Range.
The Cache la Poudre River tumbles and roars down the slopes of the Front Range of Colorado and calms down as it meanders through Fort Collins on its way to its confluence with the South Platte River just to the east of Greeley. Along it's way, it drops 7,000 feet in elevation from its beginnings in the high peaks of the Rocky Mountain National Park as it travels the 64 miles to its end. This river has the distinction of being Colorado's first designated National Wild and Scenic River.
Visitors come from around the world to camp on the Cache la Poudre River and enjoy its recreational opportunities. The most popular activities include scenic driving, camping and picnicking, hiking, fishing and whitewater rafting. In the fall and winter, there is hunting and winter sports like snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and snowmobiling.
Colorado Highway 14 follows much of the river and is the scenic road between the towns of Fort Collins and Walden and on to Steamboat.
Developed Poudre River camping areas within this Wild and Scenic River corridor include 13 National forest campgrounds with a total of 257 sites for overnight camping. The river corridor is also a great place to spend the day hiking and picnicing. You will find 9 picnic areas in scenic outdoor settings along the river.
While camping on the Cache la Poudre River, you will find established campgrounds provided with firepit grills, picnic tables, areas to pitch a tent (or in some cases, park an RV). Some campsites allow you to park within feet of your tent, while others are walk-in only. Most of the Poudre River campgrounds offer a water hydrant for washing, but you should bring your own for drinking and cooking. All campgrounds offer at least one restroom and some are wheelchair accessible. You'll need to check about the specifics that you are looking for at the Redfeather Ranger District in Fort Collins before choosing the right campground for you.
A Brief History of the Cache la Poudre River
The Cache la Poudre River has been an important travel route since since before the coming of white men. There is prehistoric evidence of Native American life in the canyon includes tipi rings, rock shelters, fire hearths. In the 1800's, fur trapping and cutting trees for railroad ties brought the first permanent settlement to this canyon. A railroad that would follow the river was planned but never completed, The original railroad grades became the foundation for what is now Highway 14. Early mining efforts for gold and silver had little success, but left behind ghost towns like Manhattan to tell their story.
The river's name has been a controversy for many years. The native Americans called the river "Minni Luzahan" which means "swift current" Later this name was replaced by "Pateros Creek" which was the name of a Frenchman who was found lost and wandering the river canyon by local natives. The present name, Cache la Poudre, means "hiding place of Powder" and references a large, cellar-like pit that was dug to hide gun powder and other goods during a snowstorm in the mid-1820's by William Ashley's expedition to the area.
Today, the Cache La Poudre is an intensively managed river. This water management began long ago for providing domestic and agricultural water for a large area of northern Colorado. Not only is the water managed for usage by cities and agriculture, but this management keeps the levels of the river fairly constant throughout the summer so that visitors can make full use of it.
Early on, settlers knew that the river didn't supply enough water for the growing economy of the northern Front Range. The Grand Ditch built in the 1890's to carry water from the headwaters of the Colorado River to the headwaters of the Cache La Poudre River. To keep the Cache La Poudre flowing throughout the year, it is further supplemented in late summer by eight structures that import water from other local river basins.
Recreational Opportunities While Camping on the Cache la Poudre River
30 miles of the Poudre River are classified Wild and Scenic, while 45 miles are classified as Recreational. No new dams or diversions can be built within the designated areas of the river. Future water development can only be considered along any portions of the Poudre which are not designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. It is this national designation that make the Poudre river a great place to camp and pursuit other recreational adventures.
Numerous hiking and mountain biking trails begin in the canyon and allow for foot, horse or mountain bike access into the backcountry. Most of these trails begin in the Poudre River Recreational corridor and lead into adjacent national forest lands. Here you'll find the Grey Rock, Hewlett Gulch, Young Gulch, Mount McConnell, Dadd Gulch and Roaring Creek trails. The Big South, Emmaline Lake and Stormy Peaks hiking trails begin in the Wild and Scenic River area and enter wilderness areas.
The Poudre River provides some of the finest fishing to be found in the entire state of Colorado. Parts of the river are designated wild trout waters and are managed with special "catch and release" regulations so that fly and lure enthusiasts have the opportunity to fish for wild trout. On the remainder of river, anglers may catch and keep stocked rainbow and brown trout to eat while camping on the Cache la Poudre River. Fishing licenses can be purchased at the nearest Colorado Division of Wildlife in Fort Collins or at local sporting goods stores.
Whitewater rafting occurs on the Cache La Poudre from April through August. The beautiful scenery make this a river-runner's paradise. Convenient access, clear water, and challenging rapids make this a fine river for an exciting raft trip. Besides the rafting, canoes and kayaks are suitable on certain stretches of the river. Commercial whitewater rafting outfitters provide raft and kayak trips under special use permits from the Forest Service.
While camping on the Cache la Poudre River, you find that the vegetation is diverse depending on your location. The lower Poudre Canyon has open slopes of mountain mahogany, sagebrush and bitterbrush. Tree species along most of the river include ponderosa and lodgepole pine, cottonwood, aspen and Rocky Mountain juniper. Douglas-fir, spruce and subalpine fir are found at higher elevations on the river.
For more on the campgrounds on the Poudre River see: Cache la Poudre River Campgrounds.