Spotlight on Parks: Chatfield State Park

Chatfield State Park, located in Littleton, CO, is the home base of the Audubon Society of Greater Denver, which conducts volunteer naturalist training and public programs at their nature center in the park. As a naturalist in training with Audubon, I’ve had the privilege of seeing the park in all seasons and can honestly say it is truly spectacular all year long.

Male spotted towhee being banded during bird banding training session at Chatfield State Park.  Photo by Jamie Simo.
Male spotted towhee being banded during bird banding training session at Chatfield State Park. Photo by Jamie Simo.

Chatfield owes its popularity to the diversity of its landscape, benefiting from its proximity to prairie, foothill, and riparian ecosystems. As a result, it boasts an impressive array of flora and fauna. I’ve seen everything from rattlesnakes to kingfishers to coyotes at the park. More than 345 bird species have been spotted in the park, making it ideal for bird banding operations, which occur every spring and fall in a joint effort between Audubon and the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory.

Chatfield was established as a state park in 1976. Prior to that, the area served as the first center for the lumber and cattle industry within Colorado. The park is named for Isaac Chatfield, a Civil War general who farmed much of the land in the late 1800’s. In 1965, flooding of the South Platte River necessitated the building of the Chatfield Dam as a control measure, creating the Chatfield Reservoir. Today, the park’s 5,318 acres and 26 miles of trails make up a popular place for fishing, boating, biking, horseback riding, and many other activities. The park even hosts hot air ballooning and model airplane flying!

Hot air ballooning over Chatfield State Park. Photo by Jamie Simo.
Hot air ballooning over Chatfield State Park. Photo by Jamie Simo.

One issue currently affecting the park is a controversial proposal to reallocate flood control waters within the reservoir. The reallocation calls for increasing the amount of water within the reservoir, which would be done by flooding 587 acres of land within the park. Opponents of the plan state that the flooding will destroy important wildlife habitat while failing to provide a reliable source of more water for the rapidly expanding human population within the area. While comments on the proposal and environmental impact statement are no longer being accepted, you can still write a letter to the governor, editor, or contact your local representatives to express your opinions.

Like all Colorado state parks, Chatfield requires a fee upon entry. That fee is $8 per day or you can purchase a $70 annual pass for unlimited access to all Colorado state parks. Chatfield also has 197 spots open for overnight camping. Rental fees vary seasonally and can be found on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.

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