Rafting the South Platte through Denver? - Mountain Buzz

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Old 06-26-2016   #1
Golden, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 1,017
Rafting the South Platte through Denver?

Biking along the South Platte through Denver from Bear Creek to Clear Creek I noticed most of the drop structures have big boulders marking boatable sluices. Most of the drop structures seems to be fairly new, boater friendly and relatively nice looking. Does anyone oar rig the South Platte through Denver? It would be nice to get some local rafting practice in without driving 80 miles.

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Old 06-27-2016   #2
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 1,199
My nephew got me into running the Dirty South (aka the South Platte).
Lots of fun waves and surfing above 1800 cfs (S. Platte below Cherry Creek). Last year we hit it a bunch between 3000 and 4000 and it is a blast.
This year it never got over above 1500 for any length of time.
Flow is controlled by Chatfield Dam and has little to do with runoff or temperatures.

We run from Union Chutes to Globesville Landing. A long run that goes quick at high water and is very slow in the flats at low water (less than 1500). Great play at Union Chutes and then the best mile of surfing in Colorado below Confluence Park. The flats in between have a few drops.

Have also run laps at both Union Chutes and Confluence Park.
We run small surf cats but any boat would work.

Have used Uber or a bike for shuttle. Urban boating is an acquired taste (or not). I am amazed all the Denver boaters that will drive hours in traffic to run Browns Canyon (in traffic) but will not run the Dirty South (which is not all that dirty) in their own backyard.
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Old 06-27-2016   #3
Golden, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 1,017
Thanks for the info. Yeah, kind of weird that they obviously built the drop structures with boating in mind, but that very few people boat these sections. Looks like it would be fun if you wanted to get out rafting for a couple hours and didn't want to drive to the Ark or Poudre.

I can't find the South Platte below Cherry Creek gauge. USGS has the following gauges:
South Platte - Waterton Canyon
South Platte - Near Union Ave
South Platte - Englewood
South Platte at 64th Ave, Commerce City. (which is after the Burlington Ditch which essentially dewaters the entire river. That Gauge was at 20CFS a couple days ago. I rode by that area on Sunday and nearly the entire river was being pulled out into the Ditch.)

AW has a gauge called "South Platte - Confluence Park" but the link takes you to South Platte at 64th Ave, Commerce City.
I found a couple websites with info on these stretches.

South Platte River Rafting – Urban Denver | RaftingColorado.net

South Platte River Rafting in Denver | cityWILD Adventures
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Old 06-27-2016   #4
Join Date: Sep 2006
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Same gauge as 64th St. Below Cherry Creek but above Clear Creek.
Lots of fun at the right levels, but a very short, marginal season this year.
Thanks for the two links.
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Old 06-30-2016   #5
Old Guy in a PFD
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1967
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 1,106
Short reminder, based on an experience about 40 years ago. Schutzie had built a frame for his experimental cataraft; a 20' monster intended to haul massive loads long distances in heavy whitewater. An ill thought out decision to make a quick test run on the South Platte to test the new frame took place just above the inflatable dam that formed the cooling intake for a Public Service plant on the South Platte River. Promptly upon launching Schutzie could tell that design and material changes would be called for, but pressed on, looking forward to sliding over the inflatable dam to "test" other elements of the new frame.

The test did not go well. That is to say the test accomplished what was intended, mainly to uncover any weaknesses in design or materials, but it did so spectacularly.

On dropping over the edge the frame suffered a significant failure of materials caused by stupid design, poor material selection, chancy construction and a pesky side wave that emphasized just how critical frame rigidity and strength is when a cataraft is in the mix.

In any case, the frame failed, the tubes separated, Schutzie and his bride ended up in the water, and a first rate lesson in hydraulics took place.
As it turns out, water flowing over a low head inflatable dam will recirculate at the base of said dam, trapping debris, incautious rafters (yes even when said rafters are wearing a life jacket) raft debris and the bodies of animals, notably dogs.

After being pummeled in the recirculating water for several minutes, which included being dragged down the face of the dam, Schutzie determined that drowning was in fact a possibility. His bride had already arrived at that conclusion, and during one brief moment when both were circulated to the surface announced "You've killed me you bastard!" Schutzies denials were literally washed from his mouth as they started yet another trip down the face of the dam.

Moments later Schutzie determined, entirely by accident, that in fact one could stand up in the maelstrom although footing was somewhat uncertain. Dragging his bride to the surface and asking her to "stand up dam it!" proved to end the immediate danger, that is until the body of a dog washed up between them.

Schutzies bride promptly expressed her sorrow at the demise of the animal (EWW!! GROSS!! EEEEEKKK!!) and abandoned her mate by heading downstream. Schutzie, recognizing that nothing more could be done for the animal, followed suit.
Recovery of the tubes and shattered frame followed quickly and Schutzie and his bride headed for the showers. Several showers.

The tubes were much later sold to an unsuspecting guide headed for the Grand Canyon, where reports showed that a more stout frame based on a better design resulted in exactly what Schutzie had been aiming for; a 20' monster intended to haul massive loads long distances in heavy whitewater. Schutzie's visionary ideas coupled with a more reliable frame probably led to the acceptance of catarafts as a raft type, early failures notwithstanding.

In any case, the moral of the story is; beware of low head dams, whether a chute exists or not; the things are known to prefer rafter meat and will sneak up and BITE YOU IN THE A$$. In particular the one christened dead dog dam on the South Platte
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Old 06-30-2016   #6
Montrose, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 313
Schutzie you do have a very unique way in telling a story, and by God I believe you could write an extremely entertaining river book about your exploits. I don't think I,ve laughed so much in a long time. Thank-you for that story!!!
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