Fishing Upper Cheesman Canyon

Upper Cheesman Canyon trail starts near Deckers on the north side of the South Platte River. There is a parking lot near Cheesman Reservoir and even on the Sunday I went there was plenty of parking available. The drive to get there winds up along a narrow dirt road with a steep drop-off on one side. There are beautiful views but it’s important to pay attention as the road isn’t wide enough for two vehicles in many spots so utilizing the pull offs is likely necessary. The reservoir itself is mostly off limits to the public. There is some fishing along one of the shores, but entering the water or floating in any craft is prohibited.

The dam on the east side of the reservoir is very beautiful, but inaccessible to the public. Interestingly, this means if you want to get over to the south shore of the river, it appears the only way to do so is to drive almost an extra hour down around through Deckers and to the other side of the dam. It appeared there may be a trail on that side, but the primary way to hike in to the river is from the north. The hike in has about 600 feet of up and down, but is for the most part fairly well maintained dirt. It seems fairly lightly traveled but expect to see dogs off leash and a few people here and there. I came across a few deer, some interesting lizards, and a couple hawks while hiking in and out. Unfortunately the area was burned very badly in the Hayman fire of 2002. There is a lot of regrowth of shrubs but the trees will take a long time to be re-established.

Once you get in close to the water there are a huge number of spots where you could drop a line in. Most aren’t easily accessible from the trail and the trail becomes a bit more difficult. Getting to the water often involves scrambling down banks of loose rock and dirt. I only saw a couple other people fishing, which may have been in part due to the water running fairly high at the time. I didn’t get any bites using a little red Copper John, I probably should have tried a San Juan worm as well based on the reports but for some reason didn’t. The hike and the water were both enough that I didn’t even mind failing to catch any fish.

Cheesman Reservoir Dam
Cheesman Reservoir Dam


Cheesman Reservoir
View from the trail in to the river above Cheesman Reservoir


South Platte River
Just below the dam at Cheesman Reservoir