15th St. btwn. Platte and Little Raven Sts., Denver
HOURS: Daily 5 a.m.–11 p.m.
The point where Cherry Creek merges with the South Platte River is the approximate spot where gold was discovered in 1858 by prospectors and thus Denver was founded within the Kansas Territory. The confluence is still attracting people, but now it’s as a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts.
Rushing water carries kayakers through chutes and under bridges, as cyclists and runners whir past on riverside paths and families relax on the grassy knolls and sandy beaches throughout Confluence Park.
A large deck on the side of a flagship REI store in the enormous former Denver Tramway Building invites people to sit and rest from all this activity or contemplate their next move while having a bite to eat. Inside REI there are more indoor opportunities for recreation such as the small playground in the children’s section and a climbing wall.
Don’t miss the historical signs posted along pedestrian paths in the park that tell the tragic story of the Native Americans who first called this spot home. Nearby Little Raven Street is named in honor of the Arapaho chief who struggled to coexist with white settlers.
The South Platte River through Confluence Park has been slightly manipulated to create an exciting whitewater park with class II–III rapids, depending on the flow. From behind REI to just below 20th Street, there are 13 drops in 1.5 miles of river. Don’t be shy about your kayaking skills here, though, because bridges hover right over the chutes making this as popular a spot to watch boaters as it is to boat. Also be careful with those rollovers as the water quality is highly questionable.
Whether you’re looking for advice and gear to head up to the whitewater of the mountains, or just interested in a quick lesson steps away on the South Platte River, Confluence Kayaks (1611 Platte St., Denver, 303/433-3676, www.confluencekayaks.com, Mon.–Thurs. 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Fri. 10 a.m.–7 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Sun. noon–5 p.m.) is the place to go.
If you are in Commons Park or Confluence Park during the warm months, chances are you will spot a few kayakers either in the chutes or dripping wet as they walk back to Confluence Kayaks to return their rented boat. Pool and lake lessons are taught at other locations, and private instruction is also available.
© Mindy Sink from Moon Denver, 1st Edition