In the early 1870s, Civil War Lieutenant Isaac W. Chatfield purchased a 720-acre swath of land at the confluence of Plum Creek and the South Platte River. Over the next 20 years he added modest developments and farmed the land, and when he left, not much remained save for his namesake, which would later be used for the dam and the reservoir.
Nearly 100 years later, just after the dam’s completion, Chatfield State Park was officially sanctioned by Colorado State Parks and Recreation Association. Today it’s a bustling hub of recreation, and during the summer months, it’s unusual to see the reservoir without stand-up paddlers, waterskiers, swimmers, fishermen, and people enjoying the beach. Colorado Parks and Wildlife periodically stocks Chatfield Reservoir with rainbow trout and several other species of fish, and it’s renowned as some of the best lake trout fishing in the state. Additionally, anglers can hook into walleye, bass, perch, crappie, and catfish. Be sure to purchase a license from the park office before you head out.
The miles of trail that wind through the huge park are both paved and non-paved, and they provide ample opportunity for road and mountain biking, running, hiking, and after the first snowfall, cross-country skiing. Additionally, the park draws birdwatchers year round, and many don their ice skates and take to the frozen reservoir when the temperatures drop in January and February.
Chatfield State Park Campground boasts nearly 200 campsites, and 10 of them are reservable group sites. The campground is packed full of amenities—flush toilets, hot showers, laundry, centrally located water, firewood, and a scat machine are available for all campsites. Note that fire bans are often in effect during the high season, and it’s highly frowned upon to bring firewood from out of state (it notoriously spreads insect pests and can carry other diseases that local flora and fauna are unequipped to combat). Dogs are allowed, and the park has a 69-acre off-leash dog park that includes several small ponds and miles of trail. There’s a small $2 daily self-serve fee to use the park, and annual passes are also available.
If you’re within the Denver metro area, reservations can be made by calling Colorado Parks and Wildlife at 303.470,1144; if you are outside the area, call 1.800.678.2267.