SUPing the Poudre River

Wow, the runoff in Colorado this year has been long and strong! When we arrived in northern Colorado at the end of May, the rivers were already flowing abundantly. 

The Filter Plant Section is one of my favorite sections of river to stand up paddleboard in Colorado. This section of the Cache La Poudre River is the perfect river SUP stretch especially when runoff is high.

The Filter Plant Section

The Filter Plant Section is a 3.2-mile stretch of river and it is considered class 2 with one or two class 3 rapids at high water levels. I learned many of my  SUP river running skills on this stretch of river. I am familiar with it and comfortable SUPing it even when the river is pumping.  

The rapids are considered Class 2 at lower flows, and many folks enjoy tubing when the water is lower. This section is too shallow to SUP at those levels, and many a tuber may be heard saying, “butt up!”

Where to Start

We generally start this run at Gateway Park, a beautiful city-run park up the Poudre Canyon.  There is an entrance fee unless you are simply doing a drop-off, but it is worth the price.  

There are expansive grass lawns, mature trees, and picnic and bathroom facilities along the river.  There is also a hiking trail to Seaman’s Reservoir.  

There are several options for putting in at Gateway Park and you can catch a couple of waves and surf to get a feel for the river before you embark on the Filter Plant run.  

The Rapids

There are good descriptions of the more notable rapids on  We have come up with alternate names for each rapids and enjoy trying different lines every time we go down.  The river runs along Highway 14, which is great for accessibility, scouting, and setting safety.  

I challenge myself to hit the exciting wave train going around “The Corner” rapid, and I try to nail all of the different lines at “Bridge to Nowhere” and “Mad Dog.”  Trying new lines each time will make you a more confident and capable paddler.

The Take Out

The takeout is a parking area along Highway 14 called Picnic Rock.  It is another nice gathering area with a bathroom and picnic facilities. Getting out here is important as there is a diversion dam downstream.

Adding the North Fork

It is worth mentioning that there is another SUPable River run that dumps into Seaman’s Reservoir called the North Fork section of the Poudre River.  

This section has a very small window of runnability each year and is very remote.  I SUPed it one year in preparation for the GoPro SUP race.  The scenery was amazing and worthwhile, but there were a few last-minute scramble portages due to barbed wire fences across the river.  

This run is about 8 miles to the reservoir, with Class 2 and 3 rapids. It can be linked with the Filter Plant run if you walk your board around the dam at the end of the reservoir.

The Fort Collin’s Whitewater Park

Fort Collins’s downtown area has a small whitewater park and hangout area just east of College Ave.  Two standing waves can be used for SUP surfing practice.  The lower wave is bigger and a bit more intimidating, but it is a better setup for SUP surfing once you get the hang of it.  This is a great place to practice river SUP skills. 

The Lower Sections 

Some lower sections of the Poudre River can be SUPed through Fort Collins and down to Windsor, which is farther east across the Interstate.  

These sections are Class 1 and 2 but must be approached cautiously due to several dams, diversions, and private property on the riverbanks.

Know Before You Go!

High run-off seasons like this year are exciting times for us water enthusiasts. Using our safety gear, paddling in groups, and sticking to the runs we are familiar with when the water is high lends good times and great memories.


Emily Barnes discovered SUP 12 years ago as a way to cope with drug and alcohol addiction. She has since tried whitewater SUP, ocean surfing, and has even explored bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico.

Learn More

The Lineup

Our Top Picks