This 880-acre park is an oasis within the greater Denver metro area. As the city continues growing at one of the fastest rates in the country, this haven has become critically important for the myriad species of animals, birds, and plants that call it home. Likewise, it serves as an outdoor recreational reprieve for those looking for a chance to recharge without having to zip up I-70 to achieve it.
In early 1965, a massive storm flooded the area with an unprecedented 14 inches of rain that destroyed houses and decimated businesses in the area. This prompted The Army Corps of Engineers to set out plans to build Chatfield Dam in an effort to mitigate the danger of downstream flooding and further city damage in the future. Soon thereafter, the citizens of Littleton began campaigning to protect the surrounding area. They were successful, and this land is protected to this day as South Platte Park.
There are five lakes that are situated within South Platte Park, and all serve as recreation opportunities for visitors. Nearby Chatfield Reservoir at Chatfield State Park is renowned as one of the best lake fishing spots in the area, though small-mouth bass and trout abound in South Platte Park as well. Be sure to get a Colorado fishing license before you embark.
Likewise, the lakes are also great places for stand-up paddleboarders, canoers, and kayakers. The South Platte River also provides opportunity for all of the above. Note that it’s always a good idea to bring along a life jacket, but much more critically important while floating down the river.
The park is home to the Carson Nature Center, which hosts wildlife walks and other nature classes. Their astronomy class is particularly popular—the light pollution is significantly less than in downtown Denver, and you’ll typically find a small crowd gathering during eclipses, meteor showers, or other night-sky events. Additionally, visitors can sign up for recreational classes like canoe outings, horseback riding, backcountry snowshoe safety, and more. Visit the Carson Nature Center website to sign up for classes.