South Platte Reservoir

Occupying the southwest corner of South Platte Park, in southwest Metro Denver, the South Platte Reservoir was created from an abandoned gravel pit and was completed in 2007.  Siphoning water from several drainage ditches in the area, the reservoir was designed to retain water for Highlands Ranch, a large suburban development on the south edge of the city.

Since it is used for water supply, South Platte Reservoir is not directly accessible to human visitors.  However, a graveled road runs atop the dam and its southern portion is open for walking and bird watching.  Attracting most diving waterfowl that visit the Front Range, the reservoir is known as a magnet for rare or uncommon species such as scoters, loons and long-tailed ducks; the latter have been wintering on this man-made lake in recent years.  Of course, the reservoir is also a good place to observe bald eagles and other raptors and its curving dam attracts a wide variety of open-country songbirds.

On this morning's visit, buffleheads dominated the open waters, joined by smaller numbers of Canada geese, western grebes, pied-billed grebes and ring-billed gulls.  Eurasian collared doves were abundant along the western edge of the reservoir, a belted kingfisher chattered his way across the lake and a red-tailed hawk surveyed the scene from a power pole, his concentration fixed on a colony of prairie dogs.  The highlight of my brief visit was the sighting of an American pipit, wagging his tail as he scoured the rocky wall of the dam.