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South Platte River

South Platte River

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The South Platte River is one of the two principal tributaries of the Platte River
Platte River
The Platte River is a major river in the state of Nebraska and is about long. Measured to its farthest source via its tributary the North Platte River, it flows for over . The Platte River is a tributary of the Missouri River, which in turn is a tributary of the Mississippi River which flows to...

 and itself a major river of the American Midwest
Midwestern United States
The Midwestern United States is one of the four U.S. geographic regions defined by the United States Census Bureau, providing an official definition of the American Midwest....

 and the American Southwest
Southwestern United States
The Southwestern United States is a region defined in different ways by different sources. Broad definitions include nearly a quarter of the United States, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah...

/Mountain West
Mountain States
thumb|300px|Regional definitions vary from source to source. The states shown in dark red are always included, while the striped states are usually considered part of the same region called the Mountain States....

, located in the U.S. state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

s of Colorado
Colorado
Colorado is a U.S. state that encompasses much of the Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains...

 and Nebraska
Nebraska
Nebraska is a state on the Great Plains of the Midwestern United States. The state's capital is Lincoln and its largest city is Omaha, on the Missouri River....

. Its drainage basin
Drainage basin
A drainage basin is an extent or an area of land where surface water from rain and melting snow or ice converges to a single point, usually the exit of the basin, where the waters join another waterbody, such as a river, lake, reservoir, estuary, wetland, sea, or ocean...

 includes much of the eastern flank of the Rocky Mountains
Rocky Mountains
The Rocky Mountains are a major mountain range in western North America. The Rocky Mountains stretch more than from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico, in the southwestern United States...

 in Colorado; much of the populated region known as the Colorado Front Range
Colorado Front Range
The Colorado Front Range is a colloquial geographic term for the most populous region of the state of Colorado in the United States. The area is located just east of the foothills of the Front Range, aligned in a north-south configuration on the western edge of the Great Plains, where they meet the...

 and Eastern Plains
Colorado Eastern Plains
The Eastern Plains of Colorado refers to a region of the U.S. state of Colorado east of the Rocky Mountains and east of the population centers of the Front Range.-Geography:...

; and a portion of southeastern Wyoming
Wyoming
Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the Western United States. The western two thirds of the state is covered mostly with the mountain ranges and rangelands in the foothills of the Eastern Rocky Mountains, while the eastern third of the state is high elevation prairie known as the High...

 in the vicinity of the city of Cheyenne
Cheyenne, Wyoming
Cheyenne is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Wyoming and the county seat of Laramie County. It is the principal city of the Cheyenne, Wyoming, Metropolitan Statistical Area which encompasses all of Laramie County. The population is 59,466 at the 2010 census. Cheyenne is the...

. It joins the North Platte River
North Platte River
The North Platte River is a major tributary of the Platte River and is approximately long counting its many curves, It travels about distance. Its course lies in the U.S...

 in western Nebraska to form the Platte, which then flows across Nebraska to the Missouri
Missouri River
The Missouri River flows through the central United States, and is a tributary of the Mississippi River. It is the longest river in North America and drains the third largest area, though only the thirteenth largest by discharge. The Missouri's watershed encompasses most of the American Great...

. The river serves as the principal source of water for eastern Colorado. In its valley along the foothills in Colorado, it has permitted agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 in an area of the Colorado Piedmont
Colorado Piedmont
The Colorado Piedmont is the geologic term for an area along the base of the foothills of the Front Range in north central Colorado in the United States...

 and Great Plains
Great Plains
The Great Plains are a broad expanse of flat land, much of it covered in prairie, steppe and grassland, which lies west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada. This area covers parts of the U.S...

 that is otherwise arid.

Description


The river is formed in Park County, Colorado
Park County, Colorado
Park County is the 17th most extensive of the 64 counties of the State of Colorado of the United States. The county was named after the large geographic region known as South Park, which was named by early fur traders and trappers in the area. The geographic center of the State of Colorado is...

 southwest of Denver
Denver, Colorado
The City and County of Denver is the capital and the most populous city of the U.S. state of Colorado. Denver is a consolidated city-county, located in the South Platte River Valley on the western edge of the High Plains just east of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains...

 in the South Park
South Park (Colorado basin)
South Park is a high intermontane grassland basin, approximately 10,000 ft in elevation, in the Rocky Mountains of central Colorado. It encompasses approximately 1,000 square miles around the headwaters of the South Platte River in Park County approximately 60 mi southwest of Denver...

 grassland basin by the confluence of the South Fork
South Fork South Platte River
The South Fork South Platte River is a tributary of the South Platte River, approximately long, in central Colorado in the United States. It is located near the headwaters of the South Platte in Park County, Colorado and drains part of the intermontane grassland basin of South Park...

 and Middle Fork
Middle Fork South Platte River
The Middle Fork South Platte River is a tributary of the South Platte River, approximately long, located in central Colorado in the United States...

, approximately 15 miles (24.1 km) southeast of Fairplay
Fairplay, Colorado
The Town of Fairplay is a statutory town that is the county seat and the most populous town of Park County, Colorado, United States. Fairplay is located in South Park at an elevation of . The town is the fifth-highest incorporated place in the State of Colorado. The population was 610 at the...

. Both forks rise along the eastern flank of the Mosquito Range
Mosquito Range
The Mosquito Range is a high mountain range in the Rocky Mountains of central Colorado in the United States. The peaks of the range form a ridge running north-south for approximately 40 miles from southern Summit County on the north end, then along the boundary between Lake and Park counties...

, on the western side of South Park, which is drained by the tributaries at the headwaters of the river. From South Park, it passes through 50 miles (80.5 km) of the Platte Canyon
Platte Canyon
The Platte Canyon is a deep, narrow, scenic gorge on the South Platte River in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The canyon is southwest of Denver on the border between Jefferson and Douglas counties. The canyon is at the entrance to the mountains, where the South Platte emerges through the Rampart...

 and its lower section, Waterton Canyon. Here, it is joined by the North Fork
North Fork South Platte River
The North Fork South Platte River is a tributary of the South Platte River, approximately 50 miles long, in central Colorado in the United States...

 before emerging from the foothills southwest of the Denver suburb of Littleton
Littleton, Colorado
Littleton is a Home Rule Municipality contained in Arapahoe, Douglas, and Jefferson counties in the U.S. state of Colorado. Littleton is a suburb of the Denver-Aurora Metropolitan Statistical Area. Littleton is the county seat of Arapahoe County and the 20th most populous city in the state of...

. At Littleton, the river is impounded to form Chatfield Reservoir
Chatfield Reservoir
Chatfield Reservoir and dam on the South Platte River south of Littleton, Colorado were built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers as a response to the disastrous flood of 1965. In addition to its primary purpose of flood control, it serves as one of many water supply reservoirs for the...

, a major source of drinking water for the Denver Metropolitan Area.

The river flows north through central Denver
Denver, Colorado
The City and County of Denver is the capital and the most populous city of the U.S. state of Colorado. Denver is a consolidated city-county, located in the South Platte River Valley on the western edge of the High Plains just east of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains...

, which was founded along its banks at its confluence with Cherry Creek
Cherry Creek (Colorado)
Cherry Creek is a tributary of the South Platte River, long, in Colorado in the United States.-Location:Cherry Creek rises in the high plateau, east of the Front Range, in northwestern El Paso County...

. The valley through Denver is highly industrialized, serving generally as the route for both the railroad lines, as well as Interstate 25
Interstate 25
Interstate 25 is an Interstate Highway in the western United States. It is primarily a north–south highway. I-25 stretches from Interstate 10 at Las Cruces, New Mexico, , to Interstate 90 in Buffalo, Wyoming, .Interstate 25 is the main north–south expressway through...

. On the north side of Denver it is joined somewhat inconspicuously by Clear Creek
Clear Creek (Colorado)
Clear Creek is a tributary of the South Platte River, approximately long, in north central Colorado in the United States. The creek flows through Clear Creek Canyon in the Rocky Mountains directly west of Denver, descending through a long gorge to emerge on the Colorado Eastern Plains where it...

, which descends from the mountains to the west in a canyon that was the cradle of the Pike's Peak Gold Rush. North of Denver it flows through the agricultural heartland of the Piedmont (a shale
Shale
Shale is a fine-grained, clastic sedimentary rock composed of mud that is a mix of flakes of clay minerals and tiny fragments of other minerals, especially quartz and calcite. The ratio of clay to other minerals is variable. Shale is characterized by breaks along thin laminae or parallel layering...

 region that was formed through erosion by the ancestor of the river following the creation of the Rockies). It flows directly past the communities of Brighton
Brighton, Colorado
Brighton is a Home Rule Municipality in Adams and Weld counties in the U.S. state of Colorado, and the county seat of Adams County. The United States Census Bureau estimates that the city population was 31,380 in 2008.-Geography:...

 and Fort Lupton
Fort Lupton, Colorado
The City of Fort Lupton is a Statutory City located in Weld County, Colorado, United States. The population was 6,787 as of the 2000 census.-Geography:Fort Lupton is located at ....

, and is joined in succession by Saint Vrain Creek, the Little Thompson River
Little Thompson River
The Little Thompson River is a tributary of the Big Thompson River and thence the South Platte River in the U.S. state of Colorado.The river's headwaters lie in the Roosevelt National Forest. It flows east through the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Larimer County through the town of Berthoud,...

, the Big Thompson River
Big Thompson River
The Big Thompson River is a tributary of the South Platte River, approximately 78 miles long, in the U.S. state of Colorado.- Course of the river :...

, and the Cache la Poudre River
Cache La Poudre River
The Cache la Poudre River is in the state of Colorado in the United States.Its headwaters are in the Front Range in Larimer County, in the northern part of Rocky Mountain National Park. The river descends eastward in the mountains through the Roosevelt National Forest in Poudre Canyon...

, which it receives just east of Greeley
Greeley, Colorado
The City of Greeley is a Home Rule Municipality that is the county seat and the most populous city of Weld County, Colorado, United States. Greeley is located in the region known as Northern Colorado. Greeley is situated north-northeast of the Colorado State Capitol in Denver. According to the...

.

East of Greeley it turns eastward, flowing across the Colorado Eastern Plains
Colorado Eastern Plains
The Eastern Plains of Colorado refers to a region of the U.S. state of Colorado east of the Rocky Mountains and east of the population centers of the Front Range.-Geography:...

, past the towns of Fort Morgan
Fort Morgan, Colorado
The City of Fort Morgan is a Home Rule Municipality that is the county seat and the most populous city of Morgan County, Colorado, United States. The United States Census Bureau estimated that the city population was 10,844 in 2005.-History:...

 and Brush
Brush, Colorado
The City of Brush is a Statutory City located in Morgan County, Colorado, United States. The population was 5,117 at the 2000 census.-Geography:Brush is located at ....

, where it turns northeastward, flowing past the town of Sterling
Sterling, Colorado
The City of Sterling is a Home Rule Municipality that is the county seat and the most populous city of Logan County, Colorado, United States. The city population was 14,777 at the 2010 census.-Geography:Sterling is located at...

 and into Nebraska near the town of Julesburg
Julesburg, Colorado
The historic town of Julesburg is a statutory town that is the county seat of Sedgwick County, Colorado, United States. The town is located on the north side of the South Platte River. The population was 1,467 at the U.S. Census 2000...

. In Nebraska, it passes south of the town of Ogallala
Ogallala, Nebraska
Ogallala is a city in Keith County, Nebraska, United States. The population was 4,737 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Keith County. In the days of the Nebraska Territory, the city was a stop on the Pony Express and later along the transcontinental railroad...

 and joins the North Platte near the town of North Platte, Nebraska
North Platte, Nebraska
North Platte is a city in and the county seat of Lincoln County, Nebraska, United States. It is located in the southwestern part of the state, along Interstate 80, at the confluence of the North and South Platte Rivers forming the Platte River...

.

The South Platte River through Denver is on the U.S. EPA's list of impaired waterbodies for pathogen impairment, with E. coli as the representative pathogen species. Other water issues involve the appearance of the New Zealand Mud Snail
New Zealand Mud Snail
The New Zealand mudsnail, Potamopyrgus antipodarum, sometimes previously known as Potamopyrgus jenkinsi, is a species of very small or minute freshwater snail with a gill and an operculum, an aquatic gastropod mollusk in the family Hydrobiidae....

 and of the Zebra Mussel
Zebra mussel
The zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha, is a small freshwater mussel. This species was originally native to the lakes of southeast Russia being first described in 1769 by a German zoologist Peter Simon Pallas in the Ural, Volga and Dnieper rivers. They are still found nearby, as Pontic and Caspian...

.

History


The South Platte was originally called the Rio Chato (see the report of the Humano and Bonillo Expedition). In 1702, it was named the Rio Jesus Maria by Captain Jose Lopez Naranjo, the Tewa Irish scout and Captain of War of the New Mexico Indian Auxiliaries who was ordered by the Viceroy of New Spain to search the Tierra Incognita for a French incursion into New Mexico.

Dams along the South Platte


In an arid region of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, the South Platte is marked with several dams. The first notable water impoundment on the South Platte is Antero Reservoir
Antero Reservoir
Antero Reservoir is an artificial water reservoir in the US state of Colorado. It was created by the first dam placed on the South Platte River in Park County, central Colorado...

. "Antero" is derived from the Spanish word "first," as it was the first dam on the South Platte River near the river's origin.

The next dam is Spinney Mountain Reservoir. At capacity Spinney Mountain covers 2500 acres (10.1 km²). A bottom release dam, Spinney releases to the east of the inlet and feeds a two mile (3 km) section of the South Platte known as the Dream Stream.

The Dream Stream feeds Eleven Mile Reservoir only two miles below Spinney Mountain Reservoir. Eleven Mile Reservoir will carry 97000 acre.ft. The Eleven Mile Reservoir Dam gives way to Eleven Mile Canyon, which runs through Forest Service
United States Forest Service
The United States Forest Service is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture that administers the nation's 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands, which encompass...

 land.

From Eleven Mile Canyon, the South Platte runs northeast to Cheesman Reservoir, named for Denver water pioneer Walter S. Cheesman. At its completion in 1905, the dam was the world’s tallest, at 221 feet (67.4 m) above the streambed. The reservoir and related facilities were purchased in November 1918 by the Denver Water Board. Cheesman was the first reservoir of Denver's mountain storage facilities and has been designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. Cheesman Reservoir feeds Cheesman Canyon. Six miles below Cheesman Reservoir is the town of Deckers; there, the river bends north for approximately 17 miles (27.4 km) to the confluence with the North Fork of the South Platte.

In the late 1980s, a proposal was put forth for the Two Forks Dam, which would have created a reservoir flooding the entire section from the North Fork confluence to the town of Deckers. In 1990 the Environmental Protection Agency vetoed the permit, calling the project an "environmental catastrophe."

From the confluence, the river flows towards Denver and enters Strontia Springs Reservoir.

Below Strontia Springs the South Platte runs through Waterton Canyon before entering Chatfield Reservoir
Chatfield Reservoir
Chatfield Reservoir and dam on the South Platte River south of Littleton, Colorado were built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers as a response to the disastrous flood of 1965. In addition to its primary purpose of flood control, it serves as one of many water supply reservoirs for the...

. Chatfield marks the seventh and final dam on the South Platte until it merges with the North Platte.

External links