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Chatfield State Park | A Hotbed for Outdoor Pursuits

Chatfield State Park | A Hotbed for Outdoor Pursuits

This is not your father’s state park.

Sure, there are still picnic tables, grills, boats and camping, but Chatfield State Park borders on resort status. Pulling into the park, you’re greeted with signs offering instruction and rentals for stand up paddleboarding. Not into that? How about kayak, sail boat, canoe, fishing and pontoon boat rentals?

For the folks who prefer not to get wet, there are miles of pavement for cycling and walking. And for those searching for a truly western experience, check out horseback riding at the Chatfield Stables.

And did I mention kids” camps and ladies’ sailing classes and campfire programs and  SUP yoga and corlc rentals?

It’s good to have variety.

Located 25 miles southwest of Denver, Chatfield State Park has evolved from its farming roots into the ultimate recreation area that hosts 1.6 million visitors per year making it the most popular state park in Colorado. The park includes nearly 5,400 acres of land. Colorado Parks and Wildlife secured a lease for the area in 1974 and established the park in 1976. With its backdrop along the Front Range and sweeping vistas of the foothills, it’s no wonder its popularity is soaring.

During the middle of the week, the campsites often have no vacancy status. People flock to the beaches, and even the gravel ponds which cater to free-wheeling dogs, open water swim training, paddleboarders and kayakers are chock-full of activity. You’ll even find people participating in various levels of open water scuba diving certifications.

Chatfield is truly a mecca for the outdoor enthusiasts.

Colorado Watersports is one of the many operators at Chatfield. Located in Roxborough Cove next to the campground and near the south boat launching ramp, they have an assortment of “toys” to fit your water needs. Water enthusiasts will love the assortment of SUP boards, kayaks, sailboats, canoes and even corcls. If it floats, most likely Colorado Watersports will have it.

When they first opened in 1987, the focus was on teaching sailing to the landlocked “mountain folks.” But over time, their mission evolved and now includes rentals and instruction on watercraft of all kinds. Check out the moonlight SUP outing. This is an unforgettable way to enjoy a full moon over the reservoir.

Since 1982, the Chatfield Marina has been providing full-service to people seeking fishing and pontoon boat rentals, leasing slips for boats, providing dry storage and courtesy docking, along with a restaurant operation and small market for those items you forgot to pack. The marina is located by the south boat ramp, close to Colorado Watersports.      .

Meanwhile, Chatfield Stables take care of the guests looking for a true western experience. What better way to explore the grounds than on horseback? Head out for an hour, 1 ½ hours or a 2 hour ride on a four-legged friend while enjoying the panoramic views of the foothills, the reservoir and the plains.

The Stables have an assortment of lessons, summer camps and western horsemanship classes for equine enthusiasts. Want something a little slower paced? Try out the hay rides. Belgian draft horses guide a wagon for a leisurely ride through the park. Chatfield also has boarding facilities available for those seeking to house their horse. The miles and miles of trails at Chatfield are perfect for exploring on horseback.

Cyclists can take advantage of the bike friendly park and conquer the 26 miles of trails, and roadways both in and out of the park. This stress free environment is perfect for a physical and spiritual workout.

Finally, park rangers also offer hikes, naturalist programs and campfire talks about a wide variety of subjects. Check out the Chatfield Chickadee for a calendar of monthly events.

Chatfield is not without its challenges. Following a 2014 approval to increase water storage in Chatfield Reservoir, the Chatfield Storage Reallocation Project will begin this fall to increase water levels up to 12 feet which will provide an additional 20,600 acre-feet of water storage to meet demands of the growing Denver metro area. This measure will greatly affect the swim beach, marina, and other park facilities, and upland habitat. However, in most cases, the existing facilities will either be moved upland or relocated.

As a result, many of the recreational facilities at the park will be modified in phases including moving and updating public structures including picnic tables, restrooms and shelters. On the environmental end, mitigation will be enacted to plant new trees replacing the ones that will be destroyed along the shoreline. Wetlands areas that end up being eliminated will be replaced, according to Barbara Biggs, project manager. “We are creating more wetland habitat than we are impacting,” she said recently.

Still, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is concerned about Chatfield State Park and encroaching development.

“Chatfield State Park has traditionally operated at the thinnest of fiscal margins, sacrificing long term infrastructure and facility maintenance for short-term fiscal savings,” according to the Chatfield State Park website. “This approach continues to weaken the investment in park infrastructure. Housing and urbanization are rapidly surrounding the park, resulting in increased issues about trails, roads, facilities, and public safety.”

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