platte river trail

The Platte River Trail: North from Carpio Sanguinette Park

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Through Instagram and my blog, I have started to meet some local people with whom I have common interests, such as hiking and walking.  Recently, I was honored to meet Chris Englert with Denver By Foot.  She has written books about many of the metro trails I have been walking of late.  We met at Carpio Sanguinette Park, looped around Heron Pond, and walked part of the Platte River Trail to the Burlington Ditch.

Quest to Walk the Platte River Trail

It reminded me of my quest to walk the Platte River Trail.  I’ve biked the majority of it, at least from North of Denver in Adams County down to Chatfield Reservoir in the City of Littleton.  Given the Platte River runs through Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska, the overall trail, though not connected, is much longer than the South Platte portion I am referencing. 

Anyway, when biking, I generally don’t stop for photos.  As a result, I decided to walk it, though I don’t have a plan or order about which portion of the Platte River Trail I will walk next.  I only hope to cover about 5 miles, out-and-back, each time. And currently have only walked the portion from Vanderbilt to Frog Hollow.

At such a slow pace, it will be a long while before I complete the quest, but in the meantime, it is a change of scenery from my neighborhood.  As a result of my recent meetup with Chris, who pointed out the Riverside Cemetery to the East of the Burlington Ditch, I returned once again to Carpio Sanguinette Park.

Getting to the Platte River Trail

This time I planned to walk further northeast on the Platte River Trail as well as to explore the Riverside Cemetery.  I’ve always liked seeing old cemeteries and the Riverside Cemetery is the oldest operating cemetery in Denver. 

To begin the 4-mile walk, I parked at the edge of Heron Pond Open Space and Carpio Sanguinette Park.  This made my walk a little longer, but Chris had pointed out that the wall of cement blocks near Heron Pond Open Space were parts of the old Stapleton runway. On them, an artist created a tiled tribute to Amelia Earhart.  

Amelia Earhart Tribute at Heron Pond Open Space
Courage is the price that life exacts for peace – Amelia Earhart

I wanted another look at this unique art installation before heading through Carpio Sanguinette Park to the Platte River Trail.  Parking closer to Heron Pond added an additional ½ mile roundtrip  Those who wish to walk only 3.5 miles may park at the other end of the lot, closest to the Platte River Trail.

From the park, turn left on the Platte River Trail and head down river to the Northeast.  I wish I could say the trail is picturesque, but aside from the geese, ducks, and some water it is not the prettiest walk, at least in winter.  Perhaps that is why I was the only walker, as many cyclists zoomed by!

Since I wanted to visit the cemetery, I took the same path that I did with Chris a few days prior.  I crossed the bridge to the east side of the Burlington Ditch, passed a small homeless camp of three or four tents, and cut through the grass on dirt road which led up the hill to the cemetery. 

Somehow, I missed the six faded signs indicating I was on private property until I returned.  Oops!  Though it seemed like it would belong to Riverside, as no one could develop between the cemetery and the river easily.

Riverside Cemetery

As I mentioned above, the cemetery is the oldest operating cemetery in Denver.  It was founded in 1876, the same year Colorado was admitted to the Union.  Many graves of Denver pioneers may be found at Riverside, including that of John Evans, Aunt Clara Brown, Silas Soule, and Augustus Tabor.

I particularly liked the horse headstone that marks journalist and real estate developer Nathan Baker’s grave as well as the miniature log cabin, the gravestone for Lester Drake. With Annie in tow, I toured the outskirts and only a few blocks near the western border, as I didn’t want to be disrespectful.  Fortunately, in heel position, she doesn’t mark her territory.

From the cemetery, I retraced my steps and crossed the Burlington Ditch back to the Platte River Trail.  This is where I started my recording on AllTrails.  The out and back walk from this bridge to the next dirt parking area is 3.6 miles roundtrip.  Upon my return, I kept recording back to the car for another ¼ mile.  Thus, my recording shows 3.8 miles.  Not including the diversion to the cemetery, this walk is really around 4 miles, as I did not begin my recording at the parking lot.

The Burlington Ditch

The story of the Burlington Ditch is interesting.  Construction began on the Burlington Ditch in 1885 after farmers followed miners to Colorado during the gold rush.  While miners wished to strike it rich with gold, farmers wished to strike it rich by feeding the miners.  In order to irrigate their dry lands, they dug ditches to divert water from the Platte River and its tributaries.

Over time, they organized ditch companies and water rights became very important.  With Denver’s population growing, fights erupted over the water.  The fights climaxed at Barr Lake in 1920 in an armed confrontation between the farmers from three ditch companies: Burlington Ditch, O’Brien Canal, and Denver-Hudson Canal.  A lawsuit settled the dispute with a contract which governs the three companies to the present day. Since the Burlington Ditch expansion in 1912, it has virtually remained the same!

burlington ditch

Walk on the Platte River Trail

From this bridge that crosses the Burlington Ditch near the Riverside Cemetery, I headed northeast on the Platte River Trail.  As I previously mentioned, the walk isn’t the prettiest or quietest.  It follows a paved path along the river. 

This area of Denver is rather industrialized and includes Denver’s Waste Management processing plant as well as other company plants.  Consequently, a stench permeates the air as beeps from reversing trucks can be heard in the distance.

Regardless of the noise and smell, there is always something pretty to find in nature.  Whether it’s the work of beavers gnawing at trees, geese bathing in the river, sunlight reflecting off a big tree, graffiti on the bridges, or your dog’s shadow, beauty abounds if you look for it. 

While I intended to walk to Clear Creek, after my diversions and limited exercise from recent knee surgery, I only walked to a small dirt parking area near 64th Ave and York Street.  This parking area is in the unincorporated community of North Washington in Adams County next to a small dam.  Since this portion of the trail leaves Denver, I may explore South for a while, though the journey north is less busy, so we shall see which way the wind takes me.  ETB


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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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