South Platte Park & Carson Nature Center
Shhhh! – Don’t tell all those dealing with frigid temperatures, knee-deep snow, ice storms and power outages that Denver recovered from its cold snap earlier in the week. The last couple of days have seen sunny blue skies and temps in the 60s. The Denver area experiences a “Storm of the Century” about every decade and faces snow and cold each winter but between storms we bask in beautiful clear days perfect for outdoor recreation.
Friday was one of those days that called for getting outside. After -2° Tuesday morning it was pure joy to walk in the park in shirt sleeves and soak up at least our 20 minutes of vitamin D. We headed to South Platte Park and the Carson Nature Center in Littleton. The park extends along the South Platte River approximately 2.5 miles north of C-470. The riparian zone of cottonwood forests and wetlands provides habitat for a diversity of wildlife – song birds to bald eagles, cicadas to coyotes.
The paved Mary Carter Greenway Trail was busy with bicyclists, in-line skaters and walkers. The trail is part of the South Platte River Trail that covers 28.05 miles from Chatfield Dam to 104th Avenue in Northglenn and links to a half dozen urban trails that criss cross the Metro Area. Four miles of natural surface trails lead to lakes and a wildlife viewing blind. Five lakes and the 2.5-mile stretch of the river are open to fishing. There’s limited access to two other lakes within the park that provide water storage and wildlife habitat.
Exhibits and live animals in the Carson Nature Center provide a good orientation for budding naturalists. The water table room attracts all ages. A river channel flows through the sandy “ground,” visitors can place rocks, block houses and scrubs along the banks and watch the affects of flood waters. Some of us are old enough to remember the 1965 devastating flood along the South Platte. Rental “Explorer Packs” filled with supplies and activities are a fun way to add discovery and learning to a park visit.
The center offers a calendar of programs, some specifically for kids, some adults only and family focused activites for all ages. Naturalist guided moonrise walks, winter scavenger hunt, Native American stories are a few offered during the winter months.
When You Go: The park and nature center are free, a modest fee and registration is required for programs. South Platte Park is located north of Mineral Avenue and west of Santa Fe Drive. Park open daily from sunrise to sunset, Carson Nature Center open Tuesday – Friday 12-4:30pm, Saturday and Sunday 9:30am – 4:30pm.