Platte Basin

| Reconstructions


The Platte Basin has two principal sub-basins: The North Platte River and its tributaries are used almost exclusively for agriculture in rural north-central Colorado and southern and central Wyoming, while the South Platte River provides most of the water for the urban population of Colorado’s Front Range and also supports extensive agriculture in northeastern Colorado. The native water supply in the South Platte basin is substantially augmented with water diverted from the Upper Colorado basin.

The first tree-ring reconstruction of streamflow in the Platte River basin was developed in 1999. Since then, with increasing interest stimulated by the severe drought in 2002, nine gages have been reconstructed in the South Platte basin, including gages critical to the water supplies of Denver, Boulder, Westminster, and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

These pages provide access to the latest reconstruction data and information about the use of these reconstructions in water management in the Platte River Basin.

A tree-ring scientist samples a ponderosa pine growing in an outcrop above the South Platte River, near Lake George, CO.

Basin Map

The map below shows the streamflow reconstructions currently available for the PlatteBasin. Select a gage to view the page for that reconstruction. Select an adjacent basin to visit the TreeFlow homepage for that basin. A list of the reconstructions available for the basin is presented below the map.

Platte Basin Reconstructions

Streamflow Reconstruction Page Period Data File
Cache la Poudre R. at Canyon Mouth, CO 1615-1999 poudre.txt
Big Thompson R. at Mouth of Canyon, CO
1569-1999 bigthompson.txt
St. Vrain River at Lyons, CO 1571-1999 stvrain.txt
Boulder Creek near Orodell, CO
1566-2002 boulderorodell.txt
S. Boulder Creek near Eldorado Spgs., CO 1566-2002 soboulder.txt
Clear Creek near Golden, CO 1566-2002 cleargolden.txt
N. Fork of South Platte R. at South Platte, CO 1685-1987 nforksplatte.txt
South Platte R. at South Platte, CO 1634-2002 splattesplatte.txt
South Platte R. below Cheesman Lake, CO 1685-1987 splattecheesman.txt

Other Hydroclimatic Reconstructions developed for, or including, the Platte Basin:

Summer (JJA) Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI), covering most of North America on 2.5-degree grid

Eastern Colorado May-June-July PDSI, 1552-1995 (Woodhouse and Brown 2001)



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Three of our technical workshops for water managers and stakeholders have been held within the Platte basin. These workshops included presentations on data and applications specific to the Platte basin. Click on a workshop below to access a summary report and the presentations; see the Treeflow Workshops page for general information about the workshops.

Jeff Lukas (University of Colorado, INSTAAR) presents "Tree-Ring 101" at the Boulder City, NV workshop.


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Cheesman Dam and Cheesman Lake on the South Platte River near Deckers, CO.

Image courtesy ofDenver Water.



There are many different ways to use tree-ring reconstructions in the planning and management for water resources, from educational tools to inform stakeholders about the occurrence of severe droughts, to numerical input into water supply models to test the resilience of the system under past hydrologic conditions.

Several entities in the Platte Basin have succesfully used tree-ring reconstructions in planning studies. The TreeFlow Applications page has descriptions of applications by the City of Boulder and Denver Water, as well as other applications of tree-ring data from other basins around the West.

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Platte Basin References*

Latest streamflow reconstructions

Woodhouse, C.A. and J.J. Lukas. 2006. Multi-century tree-ring reconstructions of Colorado streamflow for water resource planning. Climatic Change 78: 293-315.

Woodhouse, C.A. and J.J. Lukas. 2006. Drought, Tree Rings, and Water Resource Management in Colorado. Canadian Water Resources Journal 31(4): 1-14

Analyses and Applications of Streamflow and Climate Reconstructions

Jain, S., C.A. Woodhouse, M.P. Hoerling. 2002. Multidecadal streamflow regimes in the interior western United States: implications for the vulnerability of water resources. Geophysical Research Letters, 29: 2036-2039.

Woodhouse, C.A. and J.J. Lukas. 2006. Drought, Tree Rings, and Water Resource Management in Colorado. Canadian Water Resources Journal 31(4): 1-14

Other climate reconstructions

Cook, E.R., Woodhouse, C., Eakin, C.M., Meko, D.M., and Stahle, D.W. 2004. Long-term aridity changes in the western United States. Science, v. 306, p. 1015-1018.



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External Links

NOAA Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessment Program (RISA)

Western Water Assessment (WWA)

Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS)



* for additional resources, see the Other Resources page.

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