Gateway Natural Area | Colorado | 03/28/20

Filter Plant, Overlook, and Seaman Reservoir Trails | Gateway Natural Area

Bellvue, CO | 03/28/20 | 4.17 miles | 417′ gain


Kyle had recently been laid off (due to oil prices tanking) and he suddenly found himself with more time on his hands. I took that opportunity to force him to hike with me, and since he didn’t have the choice to stay at home, I let him at least have the choice of where we hike.

I’ve been slowly visiting all of my local natural areas and open spaces, even more so now with the Covid-19 Stay at Home Order in place. Gateway Natural Area found its way to the bottom of my list because it charges a $7 day use fee (I visited the free parks first because I’m oh so cheap). But, of course, this is the one Kyle picked, so I agreed to fork over my hard-earned $7.

We didn’t arrive until noon. I have absolutely no idea why the place wasn’t packed, though I would guess it was due to the brand new Stay at Home Order. I think at first people were pretty scared to go out and do anything, even though hiking was still technically allowed. But anyways, we parked by the payment kiosk and I got out to pay, but the machine wouldn’t turn on. Uhh? I tried again and looked around, trying to see if we’d missed something, when a ranger pulled up and informed me that he was just about to hang up a sign. Fees were being waived for the time being due to coronavirus. Woohoo!

Rock formation above the Cache la Poudre River

We continued on to the trailhead to try and figure out where we wanted to hike first. Gateway Natural Area has a few trails that lead in different directions off the trailhead. The original thought was to do all three trails on the park map, but we unexpectedly found a fourth trail.

There was a large brick building right by the trailhead that caught our interest. An interpretive sign near the front told us about the history of the building and mentioned a trail that wrapped around the back side. Okay Gateway Natural Area, you’re just full of surprises.

Poudre Canyon Filter Plant

This building was once the Poudre Canyon Filter Plant. The City of Fort Collins was dealing with typhoid outbreaks in the early 1900s and they needed to provide clean drinking water to their residents. Fort Collins obtained the water rights and built a filter plant to treat river water from the Poudre River. The original plant was built in 1910 and was added on to in 1927 and 1955 due to growing demand. The facility closed in 1987, replaced by a modernized plant in town.

Settling ponds

The unmarked trail (more like a service road) wraps around the filter plant building and passes empty settling ponds and other artifacts. It soon ends at a small dam.

Diet Pepsi circa 1980s?
A very happy Bob
The end of the road for us, at the dam.

Since this trail was unmarked, we had it completely to ourselves and enjoyed exploring the various structures. After we were finished, we followed our footsteps back to the car.

Kyle peeks in a broken window on the main building
Here is what’s inside

Back at the trailhead, we opted to take the Overlook Trail next. This is a short but steep trail to the top of a ridge above the parking lot. Here we had views of the surrounding foothills as well as the Poudre River.

Overlook Trail views
The Poudre River is just visible below, wrapping around the mountain in the foreground.
Parking lot (and ranger residence) below
The end of the Overlook Trail
Heading back on the Overlook Trail
My first flower of 2020 was a weed! Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

This was another very short trail, so we once again found ourselves back at the parking lot. We’d done the two shortest trails (less than 1 mile each) and had the two longer trails left (1.5-2.0 miles each). Kyle chose the easier of the two, so we made the one mile walk to Seaman Reservoir. This hike is on a road and follows the Poudre River upstream to Seaman Reservoir.

Poudre River

Even though we were on a road, we found the hike to be quite scenic. Large rock formations rose above the Poudre River and we spotted a number of trout.

The road pops out at the bottom of the dam and transitions to a steep hiking trail that leads to the top.

Seaman Reservoir Spillway
Seaman Reservoir
Seaman Reservoir Dam

After checking out the dam and spillway, we made the easy walk back to the trailhead. We decided to leave the final trail (the Black Powder Trail) for another day. Little did we know that we would return just a few days later!


12 thoughts on “Gateway Natural Area | Colorado | 03/28/20

  1. Whenever I hear of the Poudre River I remember the first time I white water rafted in it. I flew out at the first rapid and had to be rescued by my raft!! Embarrassing but most amazing swim ever!! Great post!!!


  2. Pingback: Black Powder Trail | Colorado | 04/01/20 – Colorado Chelsea

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