The Legendary North Platte River
(and something about North Delaney Lake)

by Karen Christopherson

The North Platte River is a legend - a river that pioneers used to traverse portions of the west - where Indians hunted buffalo along its shores. It is also a legend for fishing. Known for its good fishing in Wyoming, it starts in northern Colorado. A portion of this river has the distinction of being both a Wild Trout and Gold Medal river.

The North Platte is created in North Park where it is formed by creeks flowing down the slopes of the Rabbit Ears and Park Ranges. The river meanders through North Park, a large, down-dropped valley filled with Tertiary sediments. On the north side of the park, the North Platte carved Northgate Canyon. During its journey through the canyon, for about 4.5 miles from the Routt National Forest boundary to the Wyoming border, the North Platte is a gold medal/wild trout river.

north platte river Colorado
Fishing on the N. Platte just downstream of the boat ramp

The walls of the canyon are rocky, covered with pinon and sage. Interesting rock formations jutt out amongst the brush, including pegmatites of quartz.  Wildlife abounds (including ticks in spring!). Waders - a good idea, but watch for swift and high stream flow during run-off. The browns are hungry here - even when the water is muddy.

north gate canyon, Colorado
The entrance to Northgate Canyon

How to get there?

From Walden, travel north on state hwy 125. At the junction of hwy's 125 and 127, take the left fork, continuing north on hwy 125. From this junction, it is about 4 miles to a parking area (signed) which is near the entrance to Northgate canyon. There is a good put-in for rafts at this point. You can hike along the river on its west side - the path gets worse the further you go into the canyon.
On the Wyoming side, there is access at 6-mile, which is (you guessed it) 6 miles north of the Colorado border. Many of the boaters take out here, and there is access for fishing. It is also well-signed from the highway.

North Delaney Buttes Lake - gold medal water in North Park

While you're in the area, you may as well drop in at North Delaney Buttes Lake. This is very different from the North Platte, being one of a series of lakes on the west side of North Park. There are no trees around the lakes, but there is good access and a nice view of Delaney Butte. The lakes are located due west of Walden - take road 12W from town. This is a State Wildlife Area, and the north lake carries Gold Medal designation. More on fishing in North Park

fishing north delaney lake, Colorado
North Delaney Buttes Lake - another Gold Medal water

Interesting facts:

  • Moose were introduced to North Park in 1978 by the Division of Wildlife. The first twelve moose came from Utah. The following year, another dozen moose were brought in from Wyoming. I gather the moose like it in North Park, because they reproduced rapidly. In 1987, twelve more moose were brought from Wyoming and released near the Laramie River. By 1999, the population of moose in Colorado is almost 1000 throughout the state. Walden is known as the "Moose Viewing Capital of Colorado". You can buy lots of moose paraphernalia here.
  • The North Platte was named by two French explorers, the Mallet brothers. 'Plat' means 'flat' in French - they must have been observing the river as it meanders through North Park.
  • There are natural sand dunes on the west flank of the Medicine Bow Mountains, which form the eastern edge of North Park. The sand dunes aren't as big as those down south at Great Sand Dunes National Monument, but still fun. They lie on BLM lands and can be accessed by driving east off Hwy 125.


Along the Gold Medal section: fishing with artificial flies or lures only; bag and possession limit for trout is 2 fish. The same rules apply for the Manville, Verner and Brownlee State Wildlife Areas, which are upstream in North Park. North Delaney Butte Lake rules: fishing with artificial flies or lures only; bag and possession limit is 2 trout; all brown trout between 14 and 20 inches must be returned to the water immediately.

Other Information:

North Park is home to several nice lodges. There are areas for camping in Routt National Forest and Delaney Butte lakes area, and at least one motel in Walden.

Colorado fishing books BUY an e-book Fly Fisher's Guide to the North Platte click here. Available on cd or as download.

Colorado fishing maps Click here to buy a topo map for this area. You need map 113 for the North Platte River from the Walden area to the Wyoming border. Maps are produced by National Geographic Maps

Colorado Trout Fishing Book Click here to buy an Ebook about Trout fishing on Colorado State lands - includes  info about state lands and access for many fishing spots in North Park.

Map for North Delany:

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Map for the North Platte near WY border:

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