Beginning high above the treeline in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Cache la Poudre descends about 7,000 feet along its 76-mile journey. Colorado's first and only national Wild and Scenic River is characterized by pools, cascades and waterfdalls amid dense forests of fir and spruce trees. It starts along the Continental Divide, flows north into Roosevelt National Forest, the turns east and parallels SH 14, then US Highway 287 through Fort Collins to the confluence with the South Platte River a few miles east of Greeley. The river serves as a major water source for agricultural and domestic uses in much of northern Colorado.
Since pre-historic times the river channel has been a significant travel route along which can still be found a Native American burial site with artifacts, tipi rings, fire hearths, rock shelters and other signs of ancient civilization. Vegetation along the river's path is quite diverse, with spruce, subalpine fir and Douglas fir trees found in the higher elevations, whiole the lower canyon is home to sagebrush, bitterbrush, mountain mahogany, lodgepole and ponderosa pine, Rocky Mountain juniper, aspen and cottonwood trees.
The Cache la Poudre River is comprised of some 30 miles of wildwater and another 46 miles of exciting whitewater fun. There are 13 National Forest Service (NFS) campgrounds with 257 campsites available for overnighters. Nine scenic picnic areas and numerous trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and skiing make the area convenient for a variety of outdoors adventures on dry land. Fishing for wild trout, as well as stocked brown and rainbow trout, is excellent. Winter hunting is also allowed. But, from April through August a combination of great access, clear water, gorgeous natural scenery and challenging whitewater rapids make the Cache la Poudre a river runner's paradise for canoeists, kayakers and rafters. With a varriety of rapids, ranging in technical difficulty from Class II to V+, almost any whitewater enthusiast can find a section that is fun and exhiliarating.