A Community Resource for Hydrologic Science Research

South Platte River Hydrologic Observatory

Get Involved - Contact Information
If you are interested in participating in this proposal, please send an e-mail to: Jorge.Ramirez@ColoState.edu .

The planning team currently includes faculty from Colorado State University, University of Colorado, Colorado School of Mines, USGS, USDA-ARS, USFS. The original concept developed in February 2004 has evolved into the current concept as presented in the Prospectus.

Poster presented at Fall AGU meeting in San Francisco : The South Platte Basin Hydrologic Observatory

South Platte River
The South Platte River Basin has a drainage area of about 24,300 mi2 (Dennehy, 1991) and is located in parts of three States - Colorado (79 percent of the basin), Nebraska (15 percent of the basin), and Wyoming (6 percent of the basin). The South Platte River originates in the mountains of central Colorado at the Continental Divide and flows about 450 mi northeast across the Great Plains to its confluence with the North Platte River at North Platte, Nebraska. Altitude in the basin ranges from 14,286 ft at Mt. Lincoln on the Continental Divide to 2,750 ft. at the confluence of the South Platte and North Platte Rivers.

The basin has a continental-type climate modified by topography, in which there are large temperature ranges and irregular seasonal and annual precipitation. Mean temperatures increase from west to east and on the plains from north to south (Gaggiani and others, 1987). Areas along the Continental Divide average 30 in. or more of precipitation annually, which includes snowfall in excess of 300 in. In contrast, the annual precipitation on the plains east of Denver, Colorado, and in the South Park area in the southwest part of the basin, ranges from 7 to 15 in. Most of the precipitation on the plains occurs as rain, which typically falls between April and September, whereas most of the precipitation in the mountains occurs as snow, which typically falls between October and March.

Land Use
The three-State area of the South Platte River Basin has about 2.8 million people, over 95 percent of whom live in Colorado. The basin contains the most concentrated population density in the Rocky Mountain region, located along the Front Range urban corridor in Colorado where the mountains meet the plains. Population densities outside the urban corridor are small and centered in small towns located along the principal streams. The principal economy in the mountainous headwaters is based on tourism and recreation; the economy in the urbanized south-central region mostly is related to manufacturing, service and trade industries, and government services; and the economy of the basin downstream from Denver is based on agriculture and livestock production.

Land use and land cover in the South Platte River Basin during 1975-80 (Feagas, and others, 1983) is divided into: 41 percent rangeland, 37 percent agricultural land, 16 percent forest land, 3 percent urban or built-up land, and 3 percent other land. Rangeland is present across all areas of the basin except over the high mountain forests. Agricultural land is somewhat more restricted to the plains and the South Park area near Fairplay, Colo. Forest land occurs in a north-south band in the mountains. Urban or built-up land is present primarily in the Front Range urban corridor. The 'other land' category includes: water (110 mi2), barren lands (160 mi2), tundra (400 mi2), and perennial snow and ice (1 mi2). Barren lands primarily are areas under construction or are areas of strip mining, quarries, or gravel pits.

Planning Team
This is a partial, incomplete list of individuals who have been involved in the planning of the South Platte Hydrologic Observatory.


Jill Baron - USGS and Natural Resources Ecology Laboratory
Brian Bledsoe - Civil Engineering CSU
Grant Cardon - Soil Science CSU
V. Chandrasekar - Electrical Engineering CSU and CHILL
Nolan Doesken - Atmospheric Science CSU
Deanna Durnford - Civil Engineering CSU
Steven Fassnacht - Watershed Stewardship CSU
Luis Garcia - Civil Engineering CSU
Tim Gates - Civil Engineering CSU
Tim Green - USDA-ARS
Niall Hannan - Natural Resources Ecology Laboratory CSU
Tissa Illangasekare - Colorado School of Mines
Pierre Julien - Civil Engineering CSU
Gene Kelly - CSU and Short Grass Steppe LTER
Pat Kennedy - CHILL Radar CSU
Lee MacDonald - Watershed Stewardship CSU
Diane McKnight - Civil Engineering CU and Niwot Ridge LTER
Jeff Niemann - Civil Engineering CSU
Roger Pielke - Atmospheric Science CSU
Team Leader: Jorge A. Ramirez - Civil Engineering CSU
Hari Rajaram - Civil Engineering CU
Jose D Salas - Civil Engineering CSU
Bill Sanford - Watershed Stewardship CSU
John Stednick - Watershed Stewardship CSU
Robert Ward - Civil Engineering CSU
Jeff Welker - Natural Resources Ecology Laboratory CSU
Mark Williams - Geography CU and Niwot Ridge LTER
Ellen Wohl - Geosciences CSU




  • COlorado AGricultural Meteorological nETwork -- COAGMET: CoAgMet


  • Community Collaborative Rain and Hail Study: CoCoRaHS: CoCORaHS



Water Center


Link to Colorado State University
Disclaimer | Equal Opportunity

For Questions or comments regarding this 
web site please contact the Webmaster

There have been visits to this page.