Thanks to the natural features of the land in the south metro area, most of the trails and greenways follow rivers, creeks, streams and flowing water. These water sources provide the opportunity for native wildlife to thrive and exist within our urban surroundings. As we work on each and every project, habitat sensitivity, enhancements and sustainability are discussed to assure the best practices are implemented for long range partnerships between trail users and the local wildlife.
South Platte Park’s wetlands, is a perfect example of what type of wildlife and habitat visitors will experience throught the greenway corridors. You will be able to find evidence of beavers along the river or most of the lakes, signs of the coyotes the hunt in the evenings and den in the quieter places of the park, or tracks from raccoons, muskrats, or skunks in the mud along the river banks. A quiet hiker might observe either mule deer or white-tailed deer, and the usual contingent of rabbits, squirrels, and other small mammals.
South Platte Park has been designated an Important Bird Area (IBA) by the National Audubon Society for its habitat for breeding songbirds, with over 50 species confirmed breeding in the Park. In April, the forests come alive with the sounds of warblers, orioles, wrens, swallows, and dozens more – over 245 species of birds have been spotted in the park. The area also has the IBA designation for winter habitat for waterfowl. The mallards and mergansers seen throughout the summer are joined by ducks from all over North America in the winter to the point where it is not hard to find 15 to 20 species of ducks during a winter walk along the river which never freezes over. The ducks are followed by one of their predators from the north: bald eagles can be seen hunting the lakes from November through February.
As you travel the trails, greenways and open spaces, you might spot a variety of smaller animals to find as well – chorus frogs raise their voices in the spring, bullfrogs leap into the water throughout the summer, and Woodhouse’s toads patrol the trails during summer evenings. Bullsnakes and garter snakes are a common find along the trails land herons are often spotted wading in the waterways. Fishing in lakes and the river can be good throughout the year, with bass, catfish, carp, and trout most common in the lakes and the river and if you want to explore the aquatice life, you might find crawdads and tadpoles. Guided programs through the Nature Center can get you into the park to spot night wildlife like owls or bats outside of the regular hours of sunrise to sunset. Whatever time or day or time of year, there are wildlife discoveries waiting around every bend!
An important goal of the Foundation is to preserve and enhance natural movement corridors to larger waterways and wetland habitat for wildlife such as the South Platte River corridor including South Platte Park and areas around Chatfield Reservoir.
All of our projects adjacent to wetland and riparian areas have been, and will continue to be, rehabilitated providing habitat for waterfowl, songbirds, beaver, fox, and other fauna as feasible. The trail and greenway projects function as a catalyst for the preservation and re-establishment of the corridors providing food, shelter, and ground cover for wildlife. The Foundation’s commitment and vision not only includes providing a recreational resource through the construction of an interconnected trail system throughout this north/south spine, but continues to enhance the natural features and wildlife that coexist in such a complex urban environment.
The Big Dry Creek Trail includes an old growth forest and a diverse riparian corridor adjacent to densely urban land use. Preserving the well-established forested areas currently filled with native Box Elders, Wild Plums, Choke Cherry and Plains Cottonwoods prevalent in this sensitive corridor was a project priority.