Exploring the History of the Platte River
Welcome to Outdoor Retailer Summer Market Day 0! We are (im)patiently waiting for the Demo Experience to begin in just a few short hours in Commons Park, where we will be checking out the latest water sports gear, trying out some new snacks, and hopefully not falling into the river.
While we wait, we’re wandering the streets and soaking in the history and culture of the neighborhoods. The Demo Experience just happens to be located smack in the middle of one of the walks out of Walking Denver. So, naturally, we asked Mindy Sink to give us the lowdown on the Platte River.
The legend says that Denver was founded when settlers discovered gold in the South Platte River, just upstream from where is meets with Cherry Creek. Today this spot is still attracting newcomers who seek out a little bit of water as they enjoy the great outdoors in the city.
In my book, Walking Denver, the Platte River Valley walk is an easy two-mile excursion that includes museums, outdoor public art, murals, mini-history lessons, and more. However, I think it can be shortened a bit and offer a lot about the Mile High City.
Start on the east side of the REI and walk toward the river to read a large sign that tells of the tribes that lived here around the time that settlers first came.
Turn left and walk north down to the new plaza and path that takes you under 15th St. Turn left again at the stairs immediately after you walk under the pedestrian bridge that spans the river. Turn left again to cross the foot bridge. You might see kayakers practicing in the man-made rapids or people splashing in the water with their dogs here.
Once you reach Commons Park, hang another left to walk north through the park. Stay on the path that is parallel to the river. Next up is a large sculpture, “Common Ground” that you walk on and use as a shortcut or just a place to explore, sit down, take a picture for Instagram, whatever you like.
You can continue this walk north on the path just east of the river and this is when you might hear birds, see ducks and escape the city for just a moment.
Turn right when the path ends to loop back to the south. You can stay on the path in the park or take the path closer to Little Raven Street where the sidewalk is lined with trees and feels a little European to me. When you reach 16th St., be sure to read the signs that tell you about Chief Little Raven and how there was once a castle where there is now this park.
Now it’s time for some views! I suggest taking a left to walk up the steps of Millennium Bridge where you can get a glimpse of the Rocky Mountains to the west and then head over to Union Station for a drink or some food. Or, you can walk up the grassy hill in the park and see the installation art on the top and a view of the river before you head back to REI.