This is the very livable center
of commerce in Colorado, and a major transportation hub
for the whole western half of the United States. Denver
almost lost it when, in the 1860s, the Union Pacific
decided to put their transcontinental railroad line
through Cheyenne, about 100 miles north of Denver.
However, Denverites wouldn't take this snub lightly and
raised more than a quarter of a million dollars to build
a railway spur to Cheyenne.
The Denver Pacific Railroad was inaugurated
in 1870 and -- thanks to gold and silver strikes and a
growing agricultural scene -- Denver flourished. Rich
cattle barons and millionaire miners built mansions and
impressive hotels in the city. After a few years of
financial difficulty when mining declined in the 1890s,
Denver became a modern diversified city. Today, it has
its long-awaited new airport, one of the five busiest in
the nation, and is a major manufacturing and trade
Denver occupies a commanding site on the
high Colorado plateau. To the west lie foothills and then
the Rockies rise in the distance. Its population is as
diversified as its business community. The gold and
silver strikes in the mountains west and south of Denver
brought immigrants from almost every country in Europe.
There is a large hispanic population, reflecting the
early Spanish history of Colorado. There is a prominent
black community and everywhere there are signs of the
more recent arrivals: Japanese, Greek, Jewish, Italian,
Because of this great diversity of
immigrant cultures, the Denver social and cultural scene
is impressive, with fine restaurants offering cuisines
from around the world, excellent museums and a steady
series of wonderful ethnic festivals and celebrations.
The downtown area has a mixture of historic hotels and
other buildings constructed during the gold rush period,
and modern high rise towers.
Denver's daily newspapers include the Rocky
Mountain News still publishing after more than 130 years,
after its first edition appeared in April 1859. Its
founder, William Byers, brought his printing press here
from Omaha, Nebraska after he heard tales of the
impressive gold rushes in the area. The Denver Post
followed -- in the 1890s.
All in all, it's a civilized city with much
to attract the visitor. Most of all, it's a fine place to
begin or end a tour of the Colorado Rockies.
Parks & Gardens
The Denver boasts a marvelous park system
and outside of the city, state parks and national forests
provide recreational opportunities of every kind --
summer and winter. Here are a few highlights:
Denver Botanic Gardens
Dominated by a large glass conservatory,
the Botanic Gardens offer everything a garden lover could
wish for. There are three major gardens and several other
smaller plantings in this park. The alpine garden is a
very impressive collection of high altitude varieties and
is perhaps the best alpine display in America. The
Japanese garden, with its teahouse, lake and meandering
stream is a quiet oasis within an oasis of beauty. There
are rose gardens, peony beds, an herb garden and yet
The conservatory is a modern structure
containing the best collection of tropical plants in the
West. Woody Allen film fans will recognize the
conservatory building which was used in Sleeper. The
Botanic Gardens are open daily -- from dawn to dusk on
Wednesdays, Saturdays & Sundays, from June 1st until
Labor Day and from 9 AM to 4:45 PM on other days and
throughout the year.
This park is perfect for family enjoyment.
There are paddle boats in the largest of two lakes, there
is fishing, there are playgrounds, an indoor pool for
swimming, tennis courts and bicycle paths. There are lots
of tall trees and also Rower plantings in the park,
including a replica of George Washington's Mount Vernon
garden. The park is located between Almeda Avenue and
Louisiana Avenue, west of Downing Street.
Situated north of 8th Avenue, this is a
favorite place to attend a summer concert and they are
held regularly in this park which is surrounded by
housing. It was once the city cemetery and the western
view is quite impressive.
Barr Lake State Park
A short drive from Denver (20 miles to the
west) is this reservoir which is one of two great bird
watching spots around Denver. Some 300 species have been
seen to stop at the lake and the nature center in the
park offers information on which birds are currently in
residence. Herons and cormorants are permanent nesters --
on the shoreline. There are also eagles, owls and geese
A trail leads around the lake, with
boardwalks and blinds to enhance bird watching. The trail
is nine miles long and in winter months, it is ideal for
cross country skiing. There is a boat ramp at the north
end of the lake. Allowed are sailboats, canoes, row boats
and boats with electric motors. The reservoir contains
perch, trout and bass. To get there, take Interstate 76
northeast from Denver.
Chatfield State Recreation Area
This is the other wonderful bird watching
location, complete with an arboretum, walking trails,
hiking trails and boating. It is another reservoir, part
of the South Platte River system, with campsites along
the shore. To reach the reservoir, take Interstate 25 to
County Road 470 and drive west to Highway 121. Turn south
and drive to the recreation area.
Other parks and recreation areas within a
short drive of Denver include Golden Gate Canyon State
Park, north of Black Hawk near Central City. Devil's
Head, in Pike National Forest, is south of the
metropolitan Denver area via Highway 85 past Littleton to
Sedali; turn west onto Highway 67 and drive for nine
miles. Turn south on Rampart Range Road and drive for
another nine miles to Devil's Head Campground. From here,
hiking trails lead into the mountains. You may turn this
trip into a loop drive through Colorado Springs by
driving south to Woodland Park and taking Highway 24 east
to Colorado Springs and Interstate 25 north to Denver.
You might even plan a trip taking two or three days to
fully enjoy the natural sights along this loop drive
which cuts across the Rampart Range, passing several
forest recreation areas.