Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield

Settled by Frank and Elizabeth Hildebrand in 1861 and by the Green Family in 1935, the lower Deer Creek Valley, southwest of Denver, was obtained by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1967 during the construction of Chatfield Reservoir.  Leased by the Denver Botanic Gardens in 1975, the land was first developed as the Chatfield Arboretum, which opened in 1990, and became the Chatfield Nature Area in 2000.  By 2005, a master plan was developed to establish a botanic gardens on the property, highlighting plants native to Colorado while preserving the historic structures and maintaining a working farm.

Accessed from Deer Creek Canyon Road, west of Wadsworth Blvd. and south of C-470, the Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield is a mosaic of meadows, farm fields, wetlands, gardens and riparian woodlands along Deer Creek.  A network of paved paths, graveled trails and dirt/gravel roads lead the visitor through the varied natural habitats, past the historic structures and along the display gardens.  A day-use fee of $5.00 per vehicle is currently charged for nonmembers.

Birdlife is abundant at the preserve.  Open country species, such as golden eagles, Swainson's hawks, American kestrels, western kingbirds, mourning and collared doves, black-billed magpies, Say's phoebes, western meadowlarks and vesper sparrows, are especially common, while the riparian woodlands attract great horned owls and a wide variety of Piedmont songbirds.  Ponds and wetlands south of Deer Creek host a diversity of waterfowl, shorebirds and wetland songbirds that vary with the seasons.  Mammalian residents include mule deer, coyotes, red fox, muskrats, cottontails, fox squirrels, prairie dogs, raccoons and striped skunks; though black bear and mountain lions may wander down from the foothills, they are primarily nocturnal and rarely encountered.