Bird Walks in Denver:
South Platte River from
Grant Frontier Park to Overland Pond Park
A favorite birding location and walk in the Denver area is the South Platte River between Evans and Florida. This is also a favorite of past president of DFO, Charles Thornton-Kolbe. The walk is book ended on the south by Grant Frontier Park and on the north at Florida by Overland Park Pond.
The walk is along the east side of the South Platte River, making its way north from Grand Frontier Park between the river and Overland Golf Course. In the winter the river is mobbed by a large number of Canada Geese, including a significant number of Lesser Canada Geese. Both adult and juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons have been seen here in the winter.
Most winters the river here is home to several hundred Northern Shovelers, Gadwall, American Wigeon, and Mallards. A few Green-winged Teal can also be found among the other ducks. Both Common and Hooded Mergansers like this stretch of the river and are present much of the winter on the consistently open water.
Common Goldeneye pairs winter here and forage for fish in some of the deeper stretches of water. The Common Goldeneye are often joined by Barrow’s Goldeneye. In 2011 the river was visited by a Long-tailed Duck for several weeks.
In addition to the geese and shovelers, this part of the river is winter home to large numbers of Bufflehead. Their bright white heads and sides glisten in the winter sunlight. The little guys are active and regularly disappear as they dive for food at the bottom of the river. Later in the season they begin to pair up and males aggressively defend their chosen companion.
In summer the river flows fluctuate but still host a few ducks and shorebirds such as the Killdeer. Peregrine Falcons have been known to frequent this stretch of the river, feasting upon the unwary ducks. A man living close to the river reported the falcon eating a duck on the large gravel bar just downstream to the north of the Evans Avenue bridge.
Great Blue Herons stalk fish along the river and in Overland Pond, where trout are stocked by Division of Wildlife (now Parks and Wildlife). Flocks of Bushtits flit through the elms and Russian olive along the edge of the golf course, Red-tailed Hawks hunt both the river and the banks along it. I observed one belly deep in the shallow water just north of the Florida Street bridge.
Northern Flickers call and search for ants on the golf course, along the path. Robins nest in the trees all along the river, crows can be heard calling and sometimes ganging up on the hawks that dare to show themselves in their territory.
Chickadees are a common sight along the river, and we have found Ruby-crowned Kinglets there in the winter.
Of course the residences along the river attract their share of House Sparrows, though few of these seem to venture close to the river; that is left to the brightly colored House Finches. Rock Pigeons also use the bridges as perching platforms.
In the winter an occasional American Dipper has been seen hunting insect larvae in the faster water.
This is an easy walk, about 3/4 of mile in length, one way. There is ample parking at Grant Frontier Park south of Evans on the east side of the river. You may also park at Overland Park Pond, just off the north side of Florida, also on the east side of the river.
Whatever the season, whatever the weather, you will find many people enjoying the walk along the river. Many are regulars and can tell you about the birds seen there recently.
I hope you see why several of us call this a favorite birding spot in Denver – I am sure that others have seen and can report birds that I have not mentioned. Take a morning and enjoy this stretch of the river. The birds are there waiting for your visit.