Denver Area Photo Locations – South Platte Park

August 10, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

This is the next in my series of PFB Images blog posts about Denver area outdoor photography locations, and I’m featuring South Plate Park.  The park is located along the South Platte River in Littleton, between Reynolds Landing and C-470.  There are two primary access points to the park.  The south access is from South Platte Canyon Road (CO 75) between C-470 and Mineral Avenue.  This access also serves the South Platte Reservoir, and they share several parking lots just north of C-470.  The main access is at the Carson Nature Center, north of Mineral Avenue on South Platte Parkway (just west of Santa Fe Drive).  This park can be very busy on weekends, and there is weekend overflow parking near the Carson Nature Center.  The park is free and is open from sunrise to sunset daily.  The Carson Nature Center offers a variety of programs and classes related to the park.

South Platte Park consists of 880 acres with about 6.5 miles of trails (both paved and natural surface).  It encompasses about two miles of the South Platte River and several lakes open to fishing and other uses.  The main trail is the wide, dual surface South Platte River Trail that connects C-470 to Littleton and points north.  Within the park, much of the South Platte River Trail serves as the Mary Carter Greenway, providing access to the various lakes and trails that run around and between them.  Since the South Platte River Trail provides regional connectivity, it is very busy with hikers, runners, cyclists, and other users.  Therefore, stopping on the paved surface to take pictures is difficult and can be dangerous.  Instead, hike on the natural surface portion of the trail (generally along the east side of the paved trail), or get out onto the other trails in the park to enjoy the photographic opportunities the park has to offer.

If you park in one of the south lots, you can hike along the west edge of Eaglewatch Lake to reach the wildlife viewing blind between Eaglewatch Lake and Buffelhead Lake.  Then you can loop south along the South Platte River Trail to reach Ladybug Lake, Blackrock Lake and return to the parking lots.  This is generally a late afternoon hike so you can shoot with Eaglewatch Lake in the foreground and the Platte River in the background.  Morning hikes are better in the area east of the South Platte River.  This area is best accessed from the Carson Nature Center parking lot.  Wildlife is also more common in this area, since it across the river from the busy South Platte River Trail.  The park hosts a wide variety of waterfowl, sparrows, and occasional raptors.  Small reptiles and mammals are also common, and occasionally large mammals make their way into the park from Chatfield State Park.  True wildlife enthusiasts should consider one of the guided Cooley Lake walks hosted by Carson Nature Center staff.  This is the only way to access Cooley Lake, which is a designated wildlife habitat and is closed to the public otherwise.  See the Carson Nature Center website for details.

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