A free online encyclopedia about bed and breakfasts created and edited by travel writers

sign in or out
South Platte River
South Platte River destination large map

Click map for a larger view

Encompassing a portion of Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas, the South Platte River Destination is located among some of Colorado’s most prominent cities, such as Denver, Fort Collins, and Colorado Springs. Geographically, deserts and open grasslands constitute the majority of the destination, in addition to a few cities, towns, and municipalities. Many of these urban districts, including Fort Morgan, Brush, Atwood, Sterling, and Sedgwick, can be found along the destination’s namesake, the South Platte River. The river flows northeast toward the cities of Denver and Greeley, bending eastward around Sterling and coursing to North Platte in Nebraska. Adjacent to North Platte, the South Platte River forms a confluence with the Platte River.[1] Due to the considerable amount of natural areas within the South Platte River Destination, outdoor recreation often piques the interest of those who are visiting the area. One particular site is the Pawnee National Grassland in the northern fraction of the destination. Some of the pastimes that people can participate in are camping, hiking, nature viewing, target shooting, and OHV riding, to name a few.[4] It should be noted that some of the locals and tourists who have visited places near the city of Burlington in eastern Colorado have recommended that future travelers visit between mid-June and early September for moderate temperatures.[5]

What South Platte River is known for

The South Platte River Destination comprises a portion of three of the following states in the United States' central region: Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas. The majority of the destination, however, encompasses the northeastern corner of Colorado. Coursing directly from the destination’s north is the eponym of the region, the South Platte River. Much of the land around the river is rural, though there are a number of cities and towns that neighbor the South Platte River as well, namely Fort Morgan, Brush, Atwood, and Sterling.

Outdoor enthusiasts are often drawn to the South Platte River to engage in recreational activities, more specifically, fly fishing. Some fishermen have deemed the South Platte River “one of the most productive rivers to fish in the United States.” Most of the fishing tends to take place outside of the destination in central Colorado, where some of the South Platte River’s popular fly-fishing stretches can be found, such as Cheesman Canyon, the Dream Stream, Deckers, and Waterton Canyon.[2] Just outside the destination’s western border is the city of Denver, where many of these fishermen visit. There, visitors can also find the South Platte River Trail.[1] Aside from fishing, whitewater kayakers and duck hunters frequent different sections of the South Platte River as well.[3] 

In the destination’s northwestern corner, Pawnee National Grassland occupies 193,060 acres of land. Outdoor recreation serves as a popular undertaking for those who visit Pawnee National Grassland, as opportunities for day hiking, nature viewing, camping, OHV riding, and picnicking are provided in the area. For those who enjoy wildlife viewing, Pawnee National Grassland is reportedly known as “an internationally-known birding area,” and visitors can view several different species of birds on the Pawnee Bird Tour or at the Pawnee Pioneer Scenic and Historic Byway. A notable campground found within Pawnee National Grassland is the Crow Valley Family Campground, where people can go RV camping, group camping, and dispersed camping during the spring, summer, and fall seasons.[4]


With the exception of a few urban districts scattered throughout it, most of the South Platte River Destination is composed of open grasslands and desert areas. Outside the boundaries of the destination, the South Platte River extends from its confluence with the Platte River around the city of North Platte. The South Platte River’s drainage basin includes a considerable amount of the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.[1]

Pawnee National Grassland is a fairly significant natural area in the South Platte River Destination. The grasslands serve as the home for a diverse range of flora and fauna species. From April to September, wildflowers bloom in various parts of Pawnee National Grassland, and some of the best locations where one can view wildlife are supposedly near rocky outcrops and wet potholes. These rocky outcrops and wet potholes are generally found near one of Pawnee National Grassland’s most notable geologic features, the Pawnee Buttes. The grasslands are part of North America’s short grass plains; as such, the Pawnee Buttes have been said to bear “the best example of this ecosystem” as well as much of the area’s wildlife, including deer, pronghorn, bison, coyotes, prairie dogs, rabbits, and several rodents. Nesting birds can also be found in the Pawnee Buttes, namely golden eagles and prairie falcons.[6]

The city of Burlington in the South Platte River Destination’s southern region—and the adjacent townships—experience temperatures that vary from 18 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit over the course of the year. Those who have previously visited this general area have characterized the summer season as “hot and mostly clear,” while the winter was described as “cold, snowy, windy, and partly cloudy.” It is recommended for future travelers to visit from mid-June to early September if they plan on engaging in warm-weather activities. Temperatures typically rise above 80 degrees Fahrenheit from June to September; however, the hottest month of the year in Burlington tends to be July, which receives average temperatures around 89 degrees Fahrenheit. As for the winter season, the average temperature drops below 51 degrees Fahrenheit from November to February. January is most commonly the coldest month of the year in the city, as temperatures rest between 19 and 42 degrees Fahrenheit.[5]


The native Arapaho people who previously lived on the banks of the South Platte River initially named the river Niinéniiniicíihéhe. Spanish explorers that arrived later on referred to it as Rio Chato, which translates to English as “calm river.” In 1702, Captain Jose Lopez—the Tewa Irish scout and captain of the war of the New Mexico Indian Auxiliaries—named the river Rio Jesus Maria. People often traveled to the South Platte River before the city of Denver was created “to escape the arid Great Plains.”[1]

Fort Morgan, a municipality along the South Platte River, was established in 1859. Later, in the 1860s, Fort Morgan became a defensive measure against the Native Americans that threatened them. The fort was originally called Camp Wardwell, and its main purpose was to protect those who were traveling along the Overland Trail and ranchers. In 1866, the fort was renamed in honor of Christopher Morgan, who served as the commanding officer of the 1st Regiment Illinois Volunteer Cavalry.[8]

In the 1930s, Pawnee National Grassland was subject to what is known as the Dust Bowl, which involved the combination of poor agricultural practices and drought conditions. This led to several farmers leaving the region to pursue agricultural development elsewhere. The ranch owners that chose to stay reduced the size of their ranches. Ever since the Dust Bowl, some of the surrounding communities’ economies struggled, though the present-day recreational activities that are now available to those who visit Pawnee National Grassland have aided these communities.[7]