Cache la Poudre Wild and Scenic River

Explore Colorado’s Only Wild and Scenic River

 Mid section of the Cache la Poudre Wild and Scenic River. Two kayakers on the Upper Poudre River. Sleeping Elephant,a picturesque granite rock formation.


The Cache la Poudre River is located in Larimer County. The upper stretch was designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act because of its outstanding recreation, scenic and hydrologic features; and it remains Colorado’s only river with this designation. Recreation opportunities abound along its length: enjoy one of 11 campgrounds along its banks, picnicking, fishing, hiking, and white-water rafting and kayaking in late spring and early summer. Scenic driving is also popular along Colorado 14.

View a Map (geo-referenced .pdf ):

Vicinity map of Cache la Poudre Wild and Scenic River

What’s in a Name?

Legend has it that the river was named in 1836 when a party of westward traveling fur trappers of the Hudson's Bay Company were forced to lighten their load near the banks of the river after being caught in a heavy snowfall.  The order was given to "cache la poudre" or "hide the powder" so that it could be retrieved the following spring. It became a popular route for trappers, traders, explorers, and gold miners. Several mines were established, and although none became particularly successful, they helped lay the groundwork for the first permanent settlements in the area.

Understanding the Wild and Scenic Designation

Boundary Maps

Boundary Description

Management Plan

A Living River

The area is popular with wildlife, as well, as the river is teeming with life for the majority of the year. Species commonly spotted along the river include mule deer, elk, black bear, fox, mountain lion, bobcat, moose, squirrels, and rabbits. Keep in mind these are wild animals and can fend for themselves, so do not feed them under any circumstances.

Follow the Flow

Drop by drop, water is channeled through soils to the river and carried down stream. Like all watersheds, the Poudre River basin carries water “shed” from the land after rain falls and snow melts. The Poudre Basin supplies drinking water for cities, agricultural water for farms and ranches and water for businesses like breweries in Northern Colorado through a series of large canals and tunnels dating from the 1890s. The watershed also provides water-based recreation and vital habitat for wildlife.

Cache la Poudre Wild and Scenic River Top Features

The Narrows: A narrow cleft where the river has cut through rock walls.              

This deep chasm roars with churning water much of the year.


Profile Rock and Sleeping Elephant: Two picturesque granite rock formations.

Large rock along the river  A picturesque granite rock formation.


Bighorn Sheep Viewing Area: Overlooks a spot frequented by these magnificent animals near the Big Bend Campground.

 Interpretive sign along the Upper Poudre River


Poudre Falls: This deep chasm roars with churning water much of the year.

Poudre falls and sign