Today I hit up the South Platter River below Chatfield. This part of the river is so close to my house, but the reputation as a warm water trashy river completely turned me off to it. Not knowing if this reputation was deserved or not, I finally decided to give it a chance. Unfortunately the reputation is well deserved.
Yes, the flows below Chatfield are historically low right now (not sure why - I guess trying to fill up Chatty), but no matter how you view it, the place is just a nightmare. However, the parks department has put a parking area/ranger station/park office right behind Aspen Grove mall on Santa Fe in Littleton. I had no idea it was there and stumbled upon it. I went inside and talked to a nice guy about the area and he explained the river and the surrounding areas. Inside the office there is a greeting area with all kinds of stuff animals that are in this area - from snakes to foxes to hawks to weasels to coyotes to beavers. Pretty cool little exhibit.
I decided to grab my gear and hike in there right at Ken Caryl. As I was walking in I dropped down to the river and scared a cool colored lizard - he was a limey green color, but I only saw him for a second. The river is horrible colored with nasty algea growing on the bottom, and it was terribly off color - which makes no sense since the flows were so low. I kept moving up river towards Chatfield, hoping to find some fish moving. I did not even string up the rod - just hiked along the rivers edge. There are a couple nice runs, but the water is ugly, no way any trout are in there. I took the temp and it said 60 degrees, which is way too warm for that river in mid May.
There are some restored areas with riffles and waterfalls, but I saw nothing. I even threw in some rocks to see if I could see something scatter - nothing. I moved all the way up to first small pond - there on a fallen little tree I saw a black snake all stretched out on the branch - pretty cool position - he was just sunning himself. I saw tons and tons of different birds as well - flitting in and out of the brush and singing to each other. Of course the bike path follows the river - so lots of bikers, runners and walkers going down the path giving me dirty looks.
The little pond that connects to the river was full of shadowy figures sitting up on top of the water sunning themselves - huge carp, some I'd guess hit 30 lbs or so. I tried my best to cast to them with my carp flies, spooked a bunch of them, had a few laugh at my flies and ended up getting skunked. At least I know where they are now!!
I headed back to the truck - my 3 hour excursion was over - I was not disappointed with the adventure - I saw lots of different animals, tons of fox and raccoon footprints, listened to the birds and saw some fish. Not a bad afternoon only 4 miles from my house!
I know TU is thinking about fixing this section of the Platte, but until Denver Water promises consistent flows out of Chatty, this would be a waste of time. That section needs to be blown out for 6 months straight, and then consistent flows in the 1,000cfs range - which will never happen.
I'm just glad I got out.