|Fly fishing the Cache la Poudre River|
The day following our visit to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River near Grand Junction, Colorado, Kali and I drove east for six hours, crossing the Continental Divide, and continuing on to Ft. Collins, about 1-1/2 hours north of Denver.
On the second day after our arrival, we drove Colorado Highway 14 west from Ft. Collins, up into the foothills of the Rockies through the canyon of the Cache la Poudre River.
First, pronunciation. The name of the river (at least in northern Colorado) is pronounced "cash la POOH-der." Most folks we spoke with just called it "the Poudre." The name means "hide the powder," which I surmise refers to "gunpowder," though that's only my guess. (Hide the baking powder?) The Poudre is the only federally designated Wild and Scenic River in Colorado but, of course, it's hardly the only wild and scenic river in the state. The river rises as the very modest spillover from tiny Poudre Lake, a glacial tarn that sits snug up against the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park at 10,758 feet (3279 m) in elevation.
At the beginning, the river flows as a slough through alpine wet meadows, and then begins its descent from the mountains, crossing onto national forest land north of Rocky Mountain National Park. Then it turns east and cascades alongside Highway 14 through the Poudre Canyon. After a few dozen miles, it spills onto the plains at Ft. Collins, and then continues to flow eastward - ever diminished by agricultural irrigation diversions - until what's left of it joins the South Platte River and thence, the Missouri and Mississippi.
|Cache la Poudre River in its canyon|
|Rafting the Poudre|
|Lunch along the Poudre|
|Kayaking the Poudre|
About halfway up the canyon, we turned north and drove up a long, steep gravel road out of the canyon. This road brought us to a set of small lakes called Red Feather Lakes that stud the national forest uplands away from the river. We stopped at Bellaire Lake, but found that its shoreline had been beaten down by fishermen, many of whom seemed to be there that afternoon. Nevertheless, I took a photograph, and I include it here because you can see several brown, dead conifers. Much of the coniferous forest in Colorado is brown because pine bark beetles have killed a significant proportion of the the trees in the West, providing plenty of dry wood to carry fires.
In fact, the day after Kali and I visited, lightning struck the forest in the Poudre Canyon and ignited a forest fire. What started as a 2-acre blaze exploded into a 6,000-acre fire within six hours and eventually became the High Park Fire, which grew into the largest forest fire in Colorado history (since eclipsed by the fire that consumed parts of Colorado Springs late last month). A combination of very high air temperatures, very low humidity, and the presence of many, many dead trees created a perfect firestorm - all of it centered in and around the Poudre Canyon.