Cherry Creek is a tributary of the South Platte River
in the United States.
Cherry Creek rises in the high plateau
, east of the Front Range
, in northwestern El Paso County
. It flows north, through Castlewood Canyon State Park
where it is spanned by the historic Cherry Creek Bridge
, past Parker
and through portions of Centennial
, and into southeast Denver
. It flows northwest through Denver, becoming an urban stream
and joining the South Platte River
at Confluence Park
in central Denver just west of downtown and approximately east of the foothills, near the site where the city of Denver was founded in 1858.
The Cherry Creek Dam, completed in 1950, forms Cherry Creek Reservoir
in Cherry Creek State Park
, providing flood
control and irrigation
. The dam lies immediately southeast and southwest of the Denver and Aurora city limits, respectively, approximately from the creek's confluence with the South Platte.
The creek lends its name to the Cherry Creek neighborhood
in south-central Denver, and also in particular to its Cherry Creek Shopping Center
. In addition, the creek runs through the suburban Cherry Creek Public Schools district. The Cherry Creek Bike Path
follows the creek from Confluence Park in downtown Denver through Cherry Creek State Park and south towards Parker and Castlewood Canyon.
Cherry Creek was the focus of the early part of the Pikes Peak Gold Rush
in 1858 and 1859, when gold was discovered at the "Cherry Creek diggings," in what was then western Kansas Territory
. The first edition of the Rocky Mountain News
on 23 April 1859 identified itself on the masthead as being located at "Cherry Creek, K. T." Gold was discovered at Russellville
(now in Douglas County
) in the upper Cherry Creek drainage, and in the Platte River near its confluence with Cherry Creek.
, running along Cherry Creek, is part of Denver's parks and parkway system, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places
The creek itself is locally well known for its population of crayfish
. Some local inhabitants catch and eat these crustaceans. The creek is also home to a large population of small fish (Including immature trout
, yellow perch
and others). Large fish are largely absent, except when the Cherry Creek Dam is partially opened and floodwaters carry fish such as rainbow trout
, brown trout
, mature sunfish, walleye
, and even northern pike
downstream. The creek's ecosystem was damaged during a drought in the first few years of the 21st century. Plants along the banks, damaged by the drought, dropped organic debris into the water, increasing biochemical oxygen demand
substantially. Decreased flow also limited the ecosystem's capacity to supply needed oxygen. Decreased flow also prevented the washing away of pollutants such as NPK
fertilizers, insecticides and organic solvents. Water temperatures also rose during this period, compounding the problem. As of 2005, however, the creek is substantially healthier.
The area around the creek is also known for its snake population, which includes garter snakes
, western hognose snakes
s and occasionally rattlesnake
s. Amphibians native to Colorado can be found at the creek as well. These include, the plains leopard frog
, woodhouse's frog
, and the striped chorus frog
. The bullfrog
, a non-native species, is also located in the Cherry Creek. In recent years, bullfrogs have contributed to the decimation of native amphibian species populations at the creek.
For some of its distance, notably in the region of Four Mile Historical Park, the creek is flanked on each side by approximately of woods and scrub. This corridor is deliberately left semi-wild, though there is a dirt bike track on the northern bank. This corridor is one of the few places within the Denver metro area where the creek's namesake plant, the chokecherry
, can still be seen in a largely wild state. Large trees such as cottonwood
are common, as are willow
s. Edible plants such as wild asparagus
and prickly pear
are occasionally found. Virginia creeper
and imported plants such as the Russian olive
are present. Despite the limited area this corridor offers, raccoon
, and even deer
are not uncommon sights along the creek. The beaver typically have lodges upstream (east) of Denver, but swim downstream to forage.
is extremely common in the creek. It is washed down, sometimes in fairly large pieces, from 'petrified forests' upstream. Fossil mammal bones have also been found.
Historical records kept at what is now Four Mile Historical Park
indicate that prior to the construction of the Cherry Creek Dam, the creek's water level rose and fell regularly. Since the dam's completion, however, this flood
cycle has been interrupted. Now, the flow is regulated almost exclusively by the dam's operators. The level of the creek is kept constant except when water needs to be vented from the Cherry Creek Reservoir
. When the dam's floodgates are opened for this venting, the creek's level may rise as much as two feet, sometimes in less than an hour.
*List of Colorado rivers
Cherry Creek Reservoir conditions and fishing reports
Category:Rivers of Denver
Category:Rivers of Colorado
Category:Geography of Aurora, Colorado
Category:Tributaries of the Platte River
Category:Rivers of El Paso County, Colorado
Category:Rivers of Douglas County, Colorado
Category:Rivers of Arapahoe County, Colorado