Waterton Canyon - An Extraordinary Gorge
|Storm over Waterton Canyon|
The Platte River spills down from the mountains and carves an extraordinary gorge through the Rampart Range that concludes with a rugged canyon known as Waterton. This is where the South Platte emerges from the foothills and onto the boggy wetlands just southwest of Denver. The gravel service road that follows the river course is wide and flat making it a perfect track for biking, hiking or trail running. Bighorn sheep are the park’s feature attraction but mule deer, blue herons, black bears, mountain lions and rattlesnakes also frequent the area.
We approached the rocky corridor during a late June blizzard. Flakes of white, cottony seeds from gnarled cottonwood trees fell on us like a spring snowstorm. To the west, gray clouds foretold afternoon thunder showers so we picked up the pace. Before long, the steep, red walls had risen to one thousand feet. Dark-green shadows stretched across the narrow pathway.
Just around the bend, water confined by an ancient dam was diverted through a tunnel and into the Highline Canal. We proceeded into Pike National Forest hoping to see the resident bighorn sheep but it started to rain. Trying to stay ahead of the storm, we hustled back to the trailhead but the much needed rainfall thoroughly soaked us. Nevertheless, we dried out quickly upon re-entering the land of lizards, fire and sun.
|Cotton fell on us like spring snow|
|The canyon walls are a thousand feet high|
|Just around the bend was an ancient dam|
|Water is diverted through a tunnel into the Highline Canal|
|The South Platte carved Waterton Canyon|
|The river emerges from the foothills just southwest of Denver|
|We missed the sheep but spotted this merganser|