Carson Nature Center: Canoeing, Camping and Climbing

The South Platte Park in Littleton is truly a place to get back in touch with nature.

With 878 acres of open space along the South Platte River, the park offers children and adults the opportunity to experience activities such as hiking, mountain biking and canoeing, as well as the chance to see over 300 species of wildlife. Fishing is also popular in the park’s five lakes and the 2.5-mile stretch of the South Platte River that runs through the territory.

The Theo L. Carson Nature Center at the park offers various educational classes and interactive displays to help children understand nature. Displays include native plants, animals and photos to keep children amused and engaged in the environment of the South Platte Park.

With a starter journal in hand, you can improve your observation skills by sketching the nature around you.

The river table exhibit demonstrates environmental changes to the South Platte River and the model allows visitors to control river flow, city engineering and weather to see how the river has influenced life in Littleton.

Other learning activities include:

Homeschool Science Days: Parents can bring homeschooled students to the Carson Nature Center to experience naturalist-guided programs. Classes differ each season, so make sure to call the center for more information. In winter, students will learn to identify and follow wild animal tracks. During spring, students discover how animals are grouped and seek wild examples of each.

Sunset Canoeing: Visitors can explore hidden bays, spot water-dwelling wildlife and watch the sun set behind the Rocky Mountains while canoeing down the South Platte River. Open to visitors of any canoeing experience level, ages 8-adult.

Friday Night Campfires: Skip the lines at the movie theater and bring the entire family to enjoy an alternative evening activity. In winter, sit by the fireplace while visiting with storytellers and naturalists. In summer, enjoy roasting marshmallows outdoors at a flickering campfire. Open to all ages; refreshments are provided.

Introduction to Tree Climbing: Certified instructors provide arborist ropes and equipment so visitors can lift themselves into a canopy for a birds-eye view of the forest. Ages 7-adult.

Constellation Introduction: Hear stories about constellations and stars while choosing celestial objects and tracing them across the sky. Ages 12-adult.

The moon lights the way as you search for nocturnal wildlife on a guided adventure through the forest.

Moonlight Walks: A nature guide takes you on an evening adventure through the forest where you can search for nocturnal wildlife. Ages 8-adult.

Notice Nature Better: With a starter journal in hand (provided by the center) you can improve your observation skills as you learn tricks to “seeing” nature. You’ll take notes and draw sketches as you use your newfound knowledge in the park. Open to all ages.

Geocaching: Enjoy a high-tech scavenger hunt at South Platte Park using GPS units to find hidden treasures. The entire family can become treasure hunters while hunting for clues, learning to use the GPS unit and exploring caches at the park. Ages 8-adult.

If You Go

Carson Nature Center (located inside South Platte Park), 3000 W. Carson Dr., Littleton; 303-730-1022

The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset. The Carson Nature Center is open Tuesday-Friday, noon-4:30 p.m., weekends, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Register for classes and activities online at the South Suburban Parks and Recreation web site,, or by calling 303-347-5999.

Information, restrictions and fees for activities and classes can also be found at

Rosa D. Talavera, a native New Yorker, is a journalism graduate of Metropolitan State College of Denver.

From the Editors: We spent a heap of time making sure this story was accurate when it was published, but of course, things can change. Please confirm the details before setting out in our great Centennial State.