Developing of the Denver mountain parks


The development of the parks took several decades to complete, starting in 1912 and ending in the 1940s. The city heavily invested in the project. Funding the development of rustic lodges, parks, and shelters that reached as far as Mt. Evans, Sedalia, and Winter Park. Fredrick Olmsted Jr. was hired by the city to help with the development of the mountain park plan perfect for the city. He recommended the acquirement of 41,310 acres of land. It was to be used to construct two hundred miles of picturesque parkways that would link the parkways together.

Acquiring over 41,000 acres of land proved difficult, so the city had to work with the 14,000 acres it first obtained. The Genesee Park became the first park to be developed after the acquisition of land. By 1918, the park already had a game reserve, rustic lodge (Chief Hosa Lodge), and a campground. The Chief Hosa Lodge was designed by renowned Denver architect J.J.B. Benedict who ended up designing many buildings and homes in Denver. The park soon grew into an international destination. In fact, it is on record that in 1917 more people paid the Denver Mountain Parks a visit than they visited all the other Federal national parks in the United States.

Expansion of the Denver Mountain parks

With the increased popularity of the parks in the city, the city was prompted to expand. In the 1920s, a lot of expansion happened. The city added Red Rocks Park, Evergreen Lake Park, Summit Lake Park, and Echo Lake State Park, among other facilities, to make tourists feel welcomed. Each park and facility was unique in its way, offering visitors various outdoor activities such as winter ice skating, towering sandstone, and summiting mountain tops.

Impact of The Great Depression

The Great Depression affected everyone but the reforms that came after that benefitted the mountain parks a great deal. The Denver Mountain Parks were improved as a result of the federal programs that came after the Great Depression. For example, in 1934-35, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) funded road projects that saw improvements and new facilities in Red Rocks Park, Genesee, and Bear Creek Canyon. Another federal program, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), funded a few more projects in the Denver Mountain Parks system. Additionally, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), another federal program, helped with the improvements of roadwork throughout the system in 1939.

The Second World War affected the parks a great deal as the funding for the parks decreased, and the population of the locals rapidly increased after the wars. In 1955, Denver city had to discontinue the levy that had sustained the parks since they were developed in 1913. The Mountain Parks Division was moved to another division, the Department of Parks and Recreation. There were many other things that required funding from the department, and suddenly the Mountain Parks were competing with them for the limited money available at the time. Unfortunately, the urban services were prioritized over the Mountain Parks.

State Historical Fund

By the 1970s, the once-elegant and top attraction sites in Denver were in a sorry state. This was a result of heavy use, minimal maintenance, vandalism, and aged facilities. The park managers tried to manoeuvre these hard times by seeking grants. They also established partnerships to supplement their funding which was already so constrained. By 1995, most Denver Mountain Parks was a part of the National Register of Historic Places. Being part of this list was a good thing for the parks as it opened doors for the State Historical Fund that allowed the restoration of the structures of the parks. In 2004, the parks benefitted even more with the establishment of the Mountain Parks Foundation. The foundation was established through fundraising and advocacy.

Today, there are 22 accessible parks. Despite the challenges, the city continues to protect the landscapes that date back over a century ago. In the parks, you can enjoy picnicking, biking, fishing, golf, viewing wildlife, etc. The Mountain Park system gets funding through gifts, donations, and bequests from corporations, individuals, and foundations. The managers have done a pretty good job maintaining the beauty of the parks. They are still among the top tourist attractions in the city. They get millions of visitors every year, and they are a huge reason why many people visit Denver.

Popular Mountain Parks

Denver is home to over 200 historic popular mountain parks, and most of them are connected with paved roads. It is also home to some of the best mountain parks in the world. While all the mountain parks are great, here are the most popular ones:

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre

The Red Rock Park & Amphitheatre is one of the most natural amphitheaters in the world. The arena can take up to 9,000 seated audiences, and it is carved out of a 300-foot sandstone, creating a unique, beautiful, and scenic concert venue. Many great artists have performed at the amphitheater, and the Beatles were the first rock band to ever perform here, performing in 1964. Since then, other great artists have performed on the stage, including U2 and Mumford and Sons. Entering the park is free unless it is scheduled for a performance.

Genesee Park

Genesee Park is the oldest mountain park in Denver. It sits on 2413 acres of land, making it the largest mountain park in the city. The park provides picturesque views, including snow-capped peaks, and you can also enjoy viewing buffalo herds on the highway sides.

Echo Lake Mountain Park

Echo Lake Mountain Park sits on 616 acres of land, and it has a natural lake surrounded by a beautiful forest, giving the park such an exquisite view. The park is full of beautiful plants, including subalpine plants such as western moonwort and Mingan’s moonwort. It was designed for individuals planning to spend nights there since there are beautiful sleeping rooms, fireplaces, and dining rooms. There are gift shops where you can get your loved ones gifts and restaurants where you can get excellent food. What’s more, you could try fishing in the lake and enjoy beautiful views of Mt. Evans from the shores. The east end of the lake has important wildlife habitats, so be sure to stay on the trails near there.

Summit Lake Park

After enjoying yourself at the Echo Lake Park, drive up the Mount Evans Scenic Byway and get yourself to Summit Lake Park. Summit Lake is very accessible, and it is one area you can be sure to see Rocky Mountain goats. From the altitude where the park is, you can expect to enjoy views of snow and ice at any time of the year. What’s more, the park is one of the few mountain parks in Denver you can access with your car. While you are there, make sure to enjoy some hiking in one of the hiking trails in the park.

Corwin Mountain Park

Corwin Park is one of those parks that provide some of the unique plants you can find in Denver. It sits on a 298-acre land, and it has been around for over a hundred years. Corwin Park has beautiful trees and is a perfect picnic spot for lovers. There are three parking areas around the park, so you have nothing to worry about if you come in your car. The Panorama Point Trail is a perfect trail for anyone looking to stroll as it is specifically designed for hikers. Bikes and cars are not allowed on it. If you better hike with a mountain bike, then you might want to consider using the Bear Creek Trail.

History of Denver Mountain Parks from the 1920s

Denver, Colorado, is one of the hippest destinations in the United States. There is a lot you can ,do in Denver, but in most cases, when people hear about the city, what comes to mind is the Rocky Mountains. There are at least 200 peaks in the 140 miles of mountains, and they are all accessible with ease. What’s more, the city itself is often dry, enjoying around 300 days of sunshine in the 365 days in a year. Denver is considered one of the most walkable cities in the country, and there is a lot more than the city offers. However, our main focus today is the mountain parks. We will discuss everything you need to know about Denver Mountain Parks, including the history of these parks, the popular hiking trails at the mountain parks, the top tourist activities tourists can enjoy in Denver, the most popular mountain parks in Denver, horse racing in Denver, and nature and ecology of Denver parks.

History of Denver Mountain Parks from the 1920s

Currently, there are 46 public parks in the Denver Mountain Park system. However, these parks just didn’t come to be; they were established over a century ago purposely to draw the attention of tourists and locals who enjoy the essence of the Rocky Mountains. The parks remain a major tourist attraction in Denver till today. In the 1900s, the major tourist attraction in Colorado was Colorado Springs.

Promoters from Denver watched tourists pass through Denver on their way to Colorado Springs, located around 96 kilometers south of Denver. For that reason, the promoters came together and started having discussions on how to best improve the scenic resources of Denver. It took a while before these talks gained ground, but by the 1910s, the talks had gained momentum, and plans began being implemented. In 1910, the mayor of Denver, Robert W. Speer, supported and campaigned for City Beautiful improvements in his city, and he mostly favored the mountains. However, he was not ready to use the city funds on mountains so far from the boundaries of his city; that’s where John Brisben Walker came in. The magazine publisher and local entrepreneur started a campaign to persuade the city to do something about the mountains to make them more attractive for the visitors.

Walker was already a well-known promoter of Colorado’s scenic beauty, and at the time, Walker was developing a beautiful attraction in Morrison, focusing on the Red Rocks Park. Still, in 1910, Walker developed a plan and posted it in the Denver Post. The plan recommended a 41,000-acre municipal park built behind the Red Rocks and then linked to the city with grand boulevards. He claimed that the mountain parks would give Denver a magnificent system of parks that could not be found anywhere else. He believed that the mountain parks would help improve local businesses as the Colorado tourist trade was growing exceptionally, and having the parks could attract more tourists to Denver, and it would be a perfect outdoor recreation for locals as well.

It did not take long before the Real Estate Exchange of Denver, Motor Club, and Chamber of Commerce accepted Walker’s idea. The project was then taken over by Kingsley A. Pence and Warwick M. Downing, who created an action plan to be presented to Denver’s voters. The funds to build roads and facilities were to be raised from a mill levy. The plan was presented to the public in 1912, and the majority of the public supported the plan, so the development began.

Nature and Ecology of Denver Parks

Denver is home to thousands of wildlife species and has an ecosystem that supports scavengers, herbivores, omnivores, people, pets, vehicles, and buildings. People in the city encounter wildlife in their daily lives, from birds to other animals like squirrels. The creatures have adapted to the way of life in Denver, and they take advantage of the habitats created by the city. The city of Denver does what it can to impact the growth of wildlife positively. Many species live in parks, river bottoms, neat water bodies, and in undeveloped pieces of land. Some species such as raccoons, squirrels, geese, and coyotes have adapted the city life, and they thrive very well there.

Ecology of Denver Park

In the Denver Mountain Parks, there is ecological diversity in all the parks. Some parks have over 3000 species, and all the species coexist peacefully. Taking an example of the Rocky Mountain Park, it is home to over 300 species of birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish species, and lots of insects. The plants and animals in the park have become adapted to the mountain ecosystem. They all coexist the way they should. The ecological diversity in the park is like the diversity in the broader Western landscape, ranging from Alaska to Denver. Most of the species in the parks live seasonally or full-time, depending on their tolerance conditions. Some birds in the parks, like Western Tanagers, migrate during the summer. You’ll see them moving to other countries, mostly Mexico and for the winter. The mammals found in the park ecosystem include mule deer, porcupines, coyotes, and black bears.

Natural Areas of Denver Park

That said, there are five designated natural areas in the Denver Parks and Recreation. These areas tell us about the people, geology, and landscape of Denver. They include Parkfield, Heron Pond, Camp Rollandet, Inspiration Point, and Paul A. Hentzell. The areas were designated because of the wildlife habitat in them, native vegetation, and their connection to the community. The areas can be used as classrooms to teach about Denver’s ecology. They function as areas of biological needs and natural beauty. While in these areas, it is important to stay on the designated trails. Dispose of any trash you might have in a receptacle. Additionally, make sure not to pick the flowers and keep your dog on the leash at all times.

Native Grasses

The native grasses are usually the major source of food for Denver wildlife. For that reason, the city of Denver plays its role in protecting and restoring the grass to sustain life in the ecosystem. The city monitors and evaluates the situations at the parks. They ensure they are meeting short-term and long-term goals of the natural resources required. Common measures to protect the native grass include removing competition to the native grass. This includes noxious weeds which compete for moisture and nutrients. Selective mowing is also practiced to maintain a healthy population of native grass. Mowing takes place once every year or after every two years.