Information on the Poudre River Downtown Project

Fort Collins is working on a master plan to cover the Poudre river corridor between Shields and Lemay. This will include habitat restoration, flood plain management, and recreation. As part of the recreation part, we have been working with the City to include a few whitewater features.

For more detailed information, including the current master plan, please visit the official Fort Collins Poudre River Downtown Project page.

Information on Whitewater Playparks

Whitewater playparks are areas of a river that have been modified to create “play” features for river craft, be those kayaks, canoes, surf boards, bogey boards, inner-tubes, etc.  These features generally consist of standing waves or holes formed by constrictions of the river or key placement of boulders.  This allows water to be more channelized and create features that are retentive enough to hold a watercraft in place and allow the user to perform tricks or surf.  Contrary to popular belief, a lot of water is not needed for this.  100cfs could generate a decent beginner feature.  Both Golden and Lyons playparks provide decent beginner surf at 100cfs or less.

River User Survey

In 2010 a survey was done of Poudre River users relative to their use of whitewater park.  The following PDF contains the report that resulted from this.  It should be noted that the flows quoted at “good” and “excellent” kayaking pertain to the flows in Poudre Canyon and not to the needed flows for a whitewater park.  The flows needed for a whitewater park could be well below “excellent” and still generate a very good feature that would attract people.

Along with this study, this year we put together a comparison of Poudre River flows through town (measured at Lincoln Street Bridge) vs Lyons (Black Bear/Arn’s Hole) and Golden’s playpark flows.  The following table shows the total number of days at different flow rates for each location.




  2008-2012 Days at or above Flow rate
 Flow Rate Fort Collins Lyons Golden
50 cfs 164 145 244
100 cfs 91 104 147
200 cfs 59 58.4 83
300 cfs 45 42.2 59
400 cfs 39 29.6 48
500 cfs 31 17.2 41
1000 cfs 18 1.4 11
2000 cfs 8 0 0


From this you can see that the Poudre in town compares quite favorably to both Golden and Lyons on number of days at a given flow rate.  Both Lyons and Golden get kayakers from around the Front Range visiting them as well as hosting competitions ranging from local boaters to competitions that draw in professional kayakers (Lyons Games).  More details and comparisons can be seen in the full report below:

 Whitewater Park Economic Studies

There are lots of locations that have built whitewater parks that have provided entertainment for kayakers, tubers, general public as well.  Take a visit on any sunny day down to Boulder’s or Golden’s whitewater parks, and see how busy both of them are.  And predominantly these are not kayakers who are enjoying the sites.  Sure there are kayakers in the water, but so are kids, dogs, tubers. Plus folks sitting on rocks watching people enjoying the water.

Below are two reports that were done after 2 years for two parks.  The first is Golden, whose park was finished in 1998.  The second is from Cascade, Idaho which was finished in 2010.

The next report is related to showing how important water flow is to the city’s economy.