Chatfield State Park

Chatfield State Park (5,600 acres) is centered around Chatfield Reservoir (1,450 surface acres) on the South Platte River in the foothills of the Front Range on the southwest side of Denver. This is a beautiful area where you can camp, fish, hike, bike, picnic, swim, even fly a model airplane just beyond the city limits. Concessionaires offer boat rentals, a marina and a floating restaurant.

There are 197 single-unit campsites (more than 30 with detached tent pads), all with electric and many (121) with water and sewer, spread among the 4 campgrounds. All campsites have picnic tables and fire grills, and are within walking distance of the lake. Other facilities include hot showers, flush toilets, centrally located water hydrants, laundry rooms, fire rings and a sanitary dump station. There are also 10 reservable group camping sites available. The stay limit for camping is 14 days in any 45-day period. Quiet hours are from 10 pm to 6 am.

The Montgolfier Launch Site near the Deer Creek entrance is for hot air balloons: use requires a parks pass and a balloon permit. There are 25 miles of paved trails in Chatfield State Park. These paved trails are wide enough and level enough to easily accommodate wheelchairs. Near the marina on the east side of the lake is an accessible fishing pier.

Horses are most easily accommodated on the western side of the lake, near the Deer Creek entrance. The corrals, unloading ramps, trailer parking and trailhead are all close by. Riders are required to stay on designated trails (trail maps are available at the park's main entrances) and horses are not allowed at campsites, picnic sites, near the swim beach nor along the lake shore.

Fishermen will find rainbow and brown trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, yellow perch, channel catfish, bluegill, crappie, sunfish and carp. CDOW stocks the lake on a regular basis. The open water fishing is excellent. The ice fishing: you want to check the ice condition before venturing out onto the lake. When the ice is good, so is the trout, perch and crappie fishing.

Isaac Chatfield, a Civil War-era lieutenant in the Union Army, bought 720 acres of land at the confluence of Plum Creek and the South Platte River in 1870. He farmed the land until he moved in 1879, that's how the nearby road and the area got that "Chatfield" name. Over time, the area grew with more farmers moving in and city dwellers slowly pushing the commercial and residential districts further out from the center of Denver. The South Platte Valley was flooded in 1933, 1935 and 1942. Then came the real flood: June 16, 1965. The South Platte rose up and killed 13 people, doing more than $300 million in damage to Denver and the southwestern suburbs.

Not that long before, this area was part of the Atchison Ranch that had become headquarters for the Glenn L. Martin Company in 1955. After that flood in 1965, most of the land became part of the Chatfield Dam construction project. Colorado State Parks took over after the dam was completed and, in 1998, invited the Audubon Society of Greater Denver to develop a nature center out of the ranch buildings left over from the 1940's. In 2004, the old stone garage was opened as an outdoor learning center. In 2006 an outdoor amphitheater was built and the old stone ranch house was opened as classroom space. The Audubon Society has built a visitor center that contains a nature library, an auditorium, natural history exhibits and a nature-based pre-school.

For boat rentals, slip rentals or dry storage space, call the Chatfield Marina at 303-791-5555. Horses may be leased for riding in the park from the Chatfield Stables, near the swim beach. Call 303-933-3636 for information and reservations.

Chatfield State Park Rules & Regulations

  • Keep all vehicles on designated roadways and parking areas.
  • Fires are allowed only in the provided grills and fire rings. No fires allowed on the swim beach.
  • Pets must be under control and on a leash at all times.
  • No hunting and no firearms are allowed anywhere in the park.
  • Place your trash in the trash receptacles provided. Keep your area clean.
  • Camping is allowed in designated campsites only.
  • Swimming is allowed only in the designated swim beach area.

Upper photo of Chatfield State Park courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife