South Platte

February 26th, 2007

Tributary Ten
The Good, the Bad, and the Witless, Part 3
By Carl Pudlo, Colorado

The Witless

I have witnessed some very amusing things along the South Platte River. One spring while fishing Happy Meadows with my companion Zachary, we saw one of the most comical sights ever to grace the rapids of the South Platte. We had just started fishing a section of the river in the middle of a stretch of rapids. As we moved downstream, we could hear, but not see, the object of what became the most comical sight we had ever seen while trout fishing. Quietly we fished our streamers, and as we fished the noise coming downstream got louder. We assumed it would be the usual inner tube floating down the river. Normally with inner tubes, we peacefully sit along the bank and wait for the disturbance to pass. This time we did the same, walked over to the bank and sat, waiting patiently for the current to carry the people and their inner tubes downstream so we could continue our pursuit of brown trout. As we sat, Zachary started laughing in a most exuberant manner. Between his robust laughs, Zachary pointed upstream to a most ridiculous sight. There in the middle of calm water, just about to hit the rapids, was a Tom Sawyer-like raft with two people poling their way down the river. The base consisted of two-by-sixes nailed to some cross boards underneath. There was a make-shift pole in the middle standing upright. I think the upright pole in the middle was there to hang onto in case the river got a little wild.

Zac and I sat along the bank watching with glee as the two rafters poled their way toward the rock-infested rapids. We knew what lie ahead for the ill-fated rafters, I am not sure they knew what awaited them. We could not contain our laughter. During times of high water, floating inner tubes down the river is a most enjoyable experience for water lovers. But even during times of high water, there is no way for a raft measuring ten feet by ten feet to float down the river, especially with all the hazardous rocks lying just under the surface and all the huge exposed rocks that would not allow even a five-by-five foot raft to navigate through the entrapments. Zac and I both knew that the fate of the rafters would turn into nothing more than a swim.

We decided to stay upstream from the rafters for at least half-an-hour before venturing down for more fishing. As we sat at the shore, we heard the clamoring, the sounds of wood crashing against rock, and the sound of people plunging into the water. With each sound, we renewed our laughter. I thought to myself it would be a long, long time before I witness this kind of witless action on the South Platte again, until just a few weeks later...

August of 2001 came along and it would soon be time for the kids to go back to school. So, Zachary, Alex, and I thought we would get in one last fishing weekend by camping at the South Platte River near the confluence of the Tarryall River. The second day while we were there, we decided that during the afternoon of a cloudy day, I would start upstream about half-a-mile from where we camped. The boys were going to fishing downstream from the campsite and I would meet them back near the campsite, but first the boys had to drive me upstream to where I would start fishing.

The boys were out of sight for only ten minutes when I walked past a blind turn of the river. To my amazement, I saw a 1972 white Ford Bronco in the middle of the river buried in water to the hood ornament. In the back, the water was at the hinge of the tailgate. My first thought was, "Did I not notice a car float by me while I was fishing?" I had no idea how the vehicle got there. I cautiously waded in the direction of the truck when I saw a young man walk away from the vehicle. He was soaked to the gills. Slowly he waded through the water back to the shore where he perched on a rock with his girlfriend. As I approached the shore where he was sitting, I asked him if the truck was his and how it got there. The young man's story, he was four-wheeling through the middle of the river when he turned toward a rock and was 'sucked in' by the soft sand around the rock. Well, it wasn't just a rock; it was a boulder, and a boulder that I fished quite often. The current around the rock is formidable, and the sand beneath it is washed away to make a very nice hole for fish, not trucks. I knew I would not get much fishing done in that area because of the commotion caused by the four-wheel drive truck.

I got out of the water just downstream from the truck and climbed up the bank to the road. I was surprised to see the boys come driving back toward me. They had noticed the truck in the water and had to come back to see how it got there, and how it was going to get out of the water. The boys pulled off the road and came back to me and we sat down near the river to watch what was going to happen with the truck.

Just ten minutes later, we observed another four-wheel drive truck coming up the river. It approached the white Bronco and stopped. The Bronco owner got into the water and helped the other driver tie a heavy rope from the Bronco to the second vehicle. The second vehicle drove in reverse and towed the Bronco to a place where the second vehicle could maneuver around the Bronco and re-attach the rope to pull the Bronco. The second vehicle put the Bronco in a position where fellow four-wheel drivers from the shore could pull the Bronco to the opposite shore.

I thought the raft down the South Platte River at Happy Meadows was the most witless display of sporting foolhardiness I had ever seen. But witless sportsmen never seem to be at a minimum.

To be continued... ~ Carl Pudlo, Colorado

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