of the Upper North Platte River originate in the mountains ringing
North Park, Colorado, and join numerous other tributary streams
before forming the river as recreationists know it near the
Colorado-Wyoming border. At the first major boat access point (known
as Routt), the elevation is 7,900 feet above sea level. Near
Saratoga, Wyoming, the elevation is 6,800 feet and at the backwaters
of Seminoe Reservoir, the river's first impoundment, the elevation
is about 6,300 feet.
The gradient in the upper part of the river, where the
steep walls of Northgate Canyon contain a narrow, high velocity
section that drops an average of 40 feet per mile.
After leaving the canyon, the river widens into the
gentle slopes of the foothills of the Medicine Bow and Sierra Madre
mountains, then takes on a steadily increasing meander and more
gentle gradient as it flows through the agricultural Saratoga and
Encampment valleys. Numerous tributary streams enter the Platte,
adding varying amounts of water to its flow as it progresses
downstream toward Seminoe Reservoir.
Much of the Upper North Platte River floating season is during May
and June, when air and water temperatures are cold and can create
dangerous conditions for floaters. If you must float a river when
the water is very cold, equip yourself properly and protect yourself
against the hazards of cold water. Some protection against the
consequences of cold-water immersion may be obtained by wearing
protective clothing. Waterproof outer wear helps against wind chill
and spray. A neoprene wet suit, drysuit, and insulating layers (wool
or synthetics - NO COTTON) worn under them, and an appropriately
rated, sized and fastened life jacket (PFD) are recommended as the
best protection for minimizing the effects of exposure to cold
water. Keep changes of clothing and matches dry by storing in
waterproof river bags attached to the boat to prevent being lost in
a capsize. Waterproof match containers carried in the pocket are
also advisable in case of separation from your boat and gear. Know
the signs of and treatment for hypothermia and act early to prevent
dangerously cold body temperatures.
|Floating The River
| All of the
Upper North Platte River is floatable - over 124.2 miles of
free-flowing water from the boulder-strewn, torrential whitewater of
Northgate Canyon near the state line, through the rolling
agricultural lands of the Saratoga and Encampment valleys, down to
the placid waters and sagebrush hills near Interstate Highway 80.
Due to its variable nature, the river offers numerous boating
experiences ranging from whitewater thrills to leisurely drifting.
The strategically placed access points offer the choice of float
trips ranging from a few hours to three or four days.
Experience and skill are the best guides to floating
the river. It is not advisable for the novice boatman to challenge
Northgate Canyon. If in doubt about your abilities in handling
whitewater, seek the services of one of the professional guide
services that are available.
Typical floating craft on the Upper North Platte River
include flatbottom or drift boats, inflatable rafts, canoes, and
kayaks. Flatbottom and drift boats, generally used by anglers and
fishing outfitters, are useful in the river from Pickaroon
campground downstream. Adventurous
canoeists can begin floats as far upstream as Six Mile Gap. Rafts
are used on all sections of the river, and along with kayaks are the
typical method used in floating the "whitewater sections." Boat
motors are prohibited on upstream sections of the Upper North Platte
River, both in the
Platte River Wilderness and below the Wilderness as far downstream
as the bridge at the Saratoga Resort and Spa (formerly Saratoga
|Public and Private Lands
| In Wyoming, THE
WATER OVER PRIVATE LAND IS PUBLIC - where the river flows over
PRIVATE land, the river banks and the land under the river are
considered PRIVATE. Leaving your boat for any reason could result in
trespass on private lands. Watch for blue
Bureau of Land Management and Game and Fish Department signs along
the Upper North Platte River and Encampment River, which indicate
public lands or easements. Blue 12"x12" squares indicate you are
entering public land or an easement where fishing or landing are
legal. Red signs indicate you are entering private lands where
you must stay in your boat. A portion of the river is in a
wilderness area. The use of motor-powered watercraft is prohibited
within a wilderness area (36 CFR 261.16), including the Platte River
Wilderness in Colorado and Wyoming between the Routt Access and Pickaroon, Pikepole and Prospect Access points. Also, use of
motorized watercraft is prohibited on the North Platte River
downstream from the Wilderness to the Saratoga Inn Bridge in Carbon
County. Consult current Wyoming Fishing Regulations.
are the purchase of certain rights for public use on private lands
and are typically purchased unto perpetuity (such as a "permanent
easement"). They vary according to what rights the particular
landowner at the time of purchase would sell. Usually, these rights
include road access, parking areas, and the right to walk along the
banks within a specified distance from the water's edge. On the
Upper North Platte River these range from midstream to 50 and
100 feet along the banks above the high water line to an unspecified
width as indicated on the map. All of the easements include the
right to fish and some include the right to hunt waterfowl.
Overnight camping may be limited or not allowed in some areas.
Easements are shown on this map by red arrowed lines
that indicate the width and extent of each easement. For more
information regarding the permitted rights on a particular easement,
contact the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
|Leave No Trace On The River
| When you
launch yourself and your craft onto the Upper North Platte, you
become a part of the river. You are instantly free of the noise and
bustle of work-a-day life by joining with the river and its natural
environment. Enjoy your trip, and do your part to ensure that the
solitude which you see, hear, and feel be retained for future
generations of visitors. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land
Management encourage use of "Leave No Trace" principles for
backcountry and river users. By virtue of their construction,
floating craft typically leave no trace of their passage, but
you can ensure that the pristine beauty of the Upper North Platte
River is protected while on shore and traveling through with
Ahead and Prepare -- Know the weather forecast, the river,
and locations of public and private land.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces --
Camp in developed and designated campsites when available.
Dispose of Waste Properly -- Pack it
in, pack it out, and dispose of human waste and wash water
What You Find -- Leave archeological and historic sites
undisturbed and leave vegetation intact.
Campfire Impacts -- Use established fire rings, break down
new fire rings, and carry out ashes.
Respect Wildlife -- Use bear-proof food
storage practices, observe wildlife from a distance, control pets.
Considerate of Other Visitors -- Consider that campsites may
be crowded, and respect private lands.
| All river users can make a difference
in the future of the Upper North Platte River by taking a personal
role in preserving this pristine, wild river experience for
themselves and for future generations.
| The Upper
North Platte River is known nationally for its high-quality trout
angling. In Wyoming, the river from the mouth of Sage Creek
upstream to the Colorado-Wyoming state line is classified as blue
ribbon trout water and the entire river is managed for "wild" trout.
Wild rainbow and brown trout coexist as the primary game fish with
lesser populations of brook trout, cutthroat trout, and walleye.
The many tributary streams flowing into the river
provide the spawning habitat and nursery areas necessary for natural
reproduction of spring spawning rainbow and fall spawning brown
Nongame fish in the river include longnose and white
suckers, longnose dace, darters and occasional carp, and creek
A Wyoming fishing license is required to fish in
Wyoming. Special regulations apply on specific river reaches. Refer
to the fishing regulations available through any license selling
agent and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
A Colorado fishing license and adherence to
Colorado special regulations are necessary for wade-fishing at Routt
Access and for float-fishing the first 4.8 river miles downstream of
the Routt Access. Northgate floaters who intend to fish should be
careful to have appropriate
licenses for both states or be aware of the state boundary just
downstream of the Tepee Campsite.
| The Wyoming Game and Fish Department
is responsible for the management of the fishery and wildlife
resources along the river in Wyoming.
Numerous species of wildlife inhabit the area along the
river and many species may be seen within the river corridor.
Elk are abundant in the mountains and the river canyon
provides critical winter range for this species. Bighorn sheep are
found from the Northgate Canyon downstream to Bennett Peak. Numerous
mule deer and a few white-tailed deer can be seen along the river.
antelope utilize the open valleys and foot hill areas. Blue grouse
broods are found along the forested portions of the river in summer,
and sage grouse are present in the sagebrush/ shortgrass prairie
adjacent to the river.
The riparian vegetation along the banks hosts numerous
passerine birds and plays a vital part in providing habitat for all
species of animals and cover for fish. Several species of raptors
are common along the Upper North Platte River. Golden eagles, bald
eagles, prairie falcons,
American kestrels, red-tailed hawks, Swainson's hawks, and
ferruginous hawks are frequently observed along the river. Waterfowl
are abundant. Canada geese, mallards, goldeneye, and common
mergansers can be encountered in the river by boaters during any
part of the floating season. Birds such as the great blue heron,
pelican, and kingfisher can be seen feeding on small fish among the
pools and backwater areas. The common dipper or water ouzel
frequents the pools and faces along rocky portions of the Upper
North Platte River and in the tributary streams.