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Now's a good time to see the Two Forks country.

The most controversial dam proposal in recent Colorado history involves a Y shaped section of the South Platte River where the north and south forks meet. In what may prove a major victory for conservationists, the Environmental Protection Agency regional office has just issued a formal recommendation to prohibit the project's construction. If top EPA administrators uphold this decision, the dam project would be killed although it could be revived by litigation. The American Rivers group has declared the South Platte one of the nation's 10 most endangered rivers. You can easily get a look at the affected section of the river, just a I 1/2-hour drive from downtown Denver, and sample its tubing, camping, cycling, picnicking, and gold medal-caliber trout fishing. Now is a good time to get out to the river-with warm days hitting the 70s. Fishing is good now, too. Camping, picnicking, cycling In Pike National Forest, this strip of the South Platte is very popular and accessible (you won't find a wilderness experience here); you can drive the main river route, which follows the South Fork for part of its length. From Interstate 25, take US. Highway 285 west. At Pine Junction take State 126 south. After about 8 miles on this paved road, you reach Kelsey Campground, with 17 sites first-come, $7 per night). About 4 miles farther, park at Wigwam Picnic Ground. Hike about a mile down the steep Gill Trail to the scenic Cheesman Canyon section and some of the South Fork's best fishing (more on fishing at right). Note that a 1.3-mile section of river below this stretch is off limits; it belongs to two private fishing clubs. State 126 ends after Wigwam; you then follow a graded dirt road, easily passable by car. It drops down into the river gorge itself and soon you'll reach popular Lone Rock Campground, the only developed campground on the river. Its 19 sites cost $6 to $8 per night; to reserve, call Mistix (800/2283-2267). In about 1/2 mile, you reach State Highway 67 and the town of Deckers, with the canyon's only cafe, grocery store, motel, and gas station. Past Deckers the road runs close to the river and has several informal pullouts, where camping is legal. Four areas offer good picnicking as well as rest room facilities Bridge Crossing, Platte River, Scraggy View, and Willow Bend. Mountain bikers can use the centrally located Scraggy View area as a base, then cycle to either end of the canyon. At South Platte the two river forks meet. The weatherbeaten South Platte Hotel, now closed, was an 1800s railroad hostelry. You can park here. Upstream is a popular tubing spot (the shallow water warms up a bit). Or walk downstream along a level trail following the South Platte. In about a mile, you reach a footbridge roughly at the proposed dam site. Back on the main road, continue about a mile to Dome Rock; this massive granite outcrop is popular with climbers. Continue then turn right onto Kennedy Guich Road to return to U.S. 285. A premier fishery Of all Colorado's noted trout streams, the South Platte at Cheesman Canyon has the highest "pounds per surface acre" of trout 14 inches or longer. Spring and fall offer the best fishing: trout rise and feed actively in cooler water temperatures. The river holds brown and rainbow trout; a state license is required ($15.25 resident, none sold on river) and you should pay attention to regulations posted on signs they change on each of three sections of the river. Cheesman Canyon allows catch-and release using artificial flies or lures only. From below Wigwam to Scraggy View, again use flies and lures, but you may keep two fish more than 16 inches long. From Scraggy View to the confluence, any tackle is allowed, and you can keep two fish of any size. (On the North Fork to Strontia, all tackle, eight fish.) Some history, a look ahead Dams on the Platte are nothing new. Diversions began over 150 years ago; now more than 190 reservoirs and diversions have cut off some 70 percent of the river's flow. How much more can be diverted without ruining habitat is being debated. Upstream, over the state line in Nebraska, the Platte supports some 500,000 sandhill cranes (80 percent of the world's crane population) at a critical migration stop. Here, the federal government has designated stretches of river "unique and irreplaceable" habitat for the sandhills, up to 5 million waterfowl, and other endangered species. E)
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Title Annotation:South Platte River
Publication:Sunset
Date:Jun 1, 1990
Words:758
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