If you’re looking to fill an afternoon with kids or looking for birds, walks along the South Platte River near the Discovery Pavilion and the Audubon Center nearly always turn up some interesting or exciting sights to see. This area alongside the South Platte River serves as a critical wildlife habitat for the greater Denver metro area and is accessible nearly year round, though the guided tours drop off sharply near the end of October simply due to increasingly adverse weather and trail conditions.
There are almost 350 species of birds that have been spotted on the grounds, and the variety spans from hummingbirds, gulls, and terns, to owls, hawks, and eagles. Likewise, the fauna is equally as diverse. The trail travels through forests, shrublands, grasslands, and wetlands, and animals thrive all year long. Whitetail and mule deer abound, while elk are quite elusive; coyote, red fox, cottontail rabbits, prairie dogs, and bear are also frequent visitors and residents in the park. The classroom at the Discovery Pavilion keeps binoculars, aquatic sweep nets, insect nets, track molds, and microscopes on hand, and the nearby gardens showcase organic gardening practices and attract butterflies in the summertime.
The rambling trail alongside the river is relatively flat, though if you’re traveling with young children or elderly persons, note that there are several instances during which the trail is steep for a few feet at a time. If you can manage to coordinate your trip with a guided tour by a local bird and wildlife expert, it’s definitely worth the trouble—it helps enhance the experience to see the area with an expert who’s able to point out things you might otherwise have missed.
Going it solo can be a great experience too, though—there are myriad placards and educational signs designed for self-guided groups, educating hikers on everything from beaver activity to the cohabitation of humans and nature. Want to attempt to spot bird species yourself? You can print off the Chatfield Bird List by following this link.