Waterton Canyon has reopened for public recreation – initially limited to weekdays - for the first time since closing March 18 for covid-19 precautions.
As of June 15, the canyon is now open Monday through Fridays, from half-an-hour before sunrise, to half-an-hour after sunset. Denver Water plans to expand to opening weekends later in the summer.
Waterton Canyon opens
Waterton Canyon has re-opened to recreationist.
“We know this is such a valuable amenity for the community, especially coming through this time where people have been stuck inside and are really itching to get out,” Denver Water communications manager Travis Thompson said.
The popular recreation area south of Littleton is managed by Denver Water and consists of a service access road along the South Platte River that is open to pedestrians, cyclists, and fishers from the canyon’s mouth, 6.5 miles upstream to the Strontia Springs Dam.
The service road is used by Denver Water vehicles but is otherwise closed to motorized traffic.
Thompson said the road provides good opportunities to spread out and socially distance, unlike narrow trails, but that crowds and congestion can develop around the canyon entry, and especially when visitors gather to view wildlife.
“This is a beautiful canyon for people to be able to escape without having to drive too far. So we’re very excited to be able to re-open it to recreationalist,” Thompson said. “However, at the same time we’re very cautious about it because this is an operational facility first.”
Thompson had three main requests for visitors.
“If the parking lot is full, unfortunately that means it’s at capacity. Don’t park off the road and go to other spots.”
Bring a mask. You can wear it around your neck when you’re alone, but when you pass a group, put on your mask to show respect for others.
Last, be mindful about crowds gathering around the bighorn sheep and deer herds.
People tend to gather to take photos and observe the herds when they come down to the road. When this happens, Thompson said to continue social distancing, keep your mask on, and spread out.
“Have some patience with us, make sure to follow the guidelines, and together we can have a successful summer recreating in Waterton Canyon,” Thompson said.
On Monday the 15th, we spoke to some of the first visitors enjoying the canyon.
Ryan Kadavy was using a spotting-scope connected to a smartphone to get a close-up view of bighorn sheep on the cliffs. “We’re pretty excited, we’ve been waiting to get in here and look at these sheep for a couple months now,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to check this out so close to home.”
He described the canyon as a hidden treasure and a nice way to get away from the city.
Phil and Cindy Vadeboncoeur are recent retirees and frequent hikers. “We hike a lot of different trails and this is one of our favorites,” Cindy said. “The pandemic shutdown a lot of our favorite places to go,” Phil said.
Denver Water plans to observe how the weekday opening goes, and learn the best approach for opening on weekends, when visitor congestion is most severe.
Denver Water previously has closed the canyon due to visitor interaction with bears.
If you plan to visit Waterton Canyon or any of Denver Water’s recreation areas, the utility encourages visitors to follow safety guidelines:
- Wear face masks and maintain a safe social distance from others.
- Limit gathering around wildlife and blocking the service road.
- Bring water as facilities may be limited or unavailable.
- Denver Water staff have limited ability to provide support in case of emergencies.
- Park in a safe and responsible manner at the assigned parking lots.
- Those who do not follow parking regulations may be ticketed and/or towed.