Carson Nature Center and South Platte Park

South Platte Park is a natural oasis within the city featuring 880 acres of open space along the South Platte River and Mary Carter Greenway Trail

Visitors can fish for small-mouth bass and trout in the five lakes; kayak through gentle water or rapids in the river; cycle or run the regional trail, or walk or nature-watch on miles of natural surface trails.

At the Carson Nature Center, re-create the area’s famous 1965 flood at the interactive River Table or observe live animals in the Center’s exhibits. Outdoors, search for hundreds of species of wildlife close to home.

Spend a couple hours or an entire day exploring Colorado nature, just a few steps from home.

Programs & Classes

Nature Programs

Field Trips

  • Reserve a field trip that fulfils local school standards for your class or community group. Download our field trip brochure. To contribute to the scholarship fund, donate here.

Nature Birthday Parties

South Platte Express Nature Van

Custom Programs

Rental Spaces

  • Rent a space for your private meeting or event in the Kingfisher Studio, Dunahay Amphitheater or Meadowlark Pavilion.

Group and Commercial Permits

  • Request a permit for visits by groups of 15 or more, any time a fee is charged (including photography, guiding or lessons), and for commercial activities on the river. Educational groups and daycares may visit free of charge, but please call 303.730.1022 to coordinate a month in advance to avoid scheduling conflicts.

Sheridan Inspire Programs

  • We are part of a coalition providing grant-funded programs to residents of Sheridan and families of students enrolled in the Sheridan School District. Contact South Platte Park for more information.

Our staff are professionally certified through the National Association for Interpretation.  Want to know more about our qualifications to lead you and your children in your nature experience?  Check out our staff profiles.


South Platte Park protects two-and-a-half miles of the South Platte River along with the surrounding riparian (streamside) habitat of cottonwood forests and wetlands. Here are some key features of the park.

South Platte Park

  • Lakes (7; 5 open to fishing)
  • Natural open space (880 acres)
  • Trails
  • Natural surface hiking trails (4 miles)
  • Paved regional trail connections (3.5 miles)
  • Cooley Lake wildlife area (limited access)
  • Wildlife viewing gazebos (2)

South entrance

  • Fishing pier
  • Parking lots (3; 77 spaces)
  • Picnic tables (2)
  • Restroom with composting toilet
  • River put-in
  • Storm shelter

Carson Nature Center

Carson Nature Center is named for Theo L. Carson, a Littleton resident and engineer who designed and built the Center as their family home.  When they sold the property that became Jackass Hill Park and community, they sold the building to the City for $1, who then moved it to its current location.

  • Nature Center
  • Drinking fountain
  • Information desk
  • Interactive displays including the South Platte River table
  • Live animals
  • Naturalists on duty
  • Restrooms (flush)
  • AED available

King Fisher Studio (Reserve Online)

  • Drinking fountain
  • Fireplace
  • Kitchenette
  • Projector (LCD)
  • Reserved parking
  • Restrooms (flush)

Amenities Near the Center

  • Dunahay Amphitheater (Reserve online)
  • Meadowlark Pavilion (Reserve online)
  • Bicycle repair station
  • Bike racks (1 at Center, 1 at main trailhead; locking post at each walking trail entrance)
  • Native plants garden with educational labels and rock fountain
  • Parking lot (37 spaces)
  • Picnic tables (3)
  • Ranger headquarters
  • River access/fishing platforms (2)


Volunteers assist in the management of South Platte Park in many capacities from guiding programs to caring for trails or helping in the Nature Center. 

Volunteers are recruited year round in roles such as:

  • Nature Center Host
  • Field Trip Guide
  • Trail and Habitat Work
  • Bird Counts
  • Public Program Aide
  • And more!

Apply now by searching "volunteer" on our Volunteer Page.  

For the latest edition of our Volunteer Update newsletter with dates of projects and more details, email Skot at SkotL@ssprd.org.



Carson Nature Center
(N of Mineral Ave, W of Santa Fe Dr)
3000 W Carson Drive
Littleton, CO 80120

South Platte Park Manager
Skot Latona

Park Hours

Sunrise to Sunset (Gates open by 6:30 am) for parking lots, lakes and trails.

Greenway Trail commuter use allowed 5 am - 11 pm.


Parking Map pdf

Parking Reservations

River Use

See Current South Platte River Flow at C470 Boat Chute
River Flow:

  • 50 cfs and below:  Floating not recommended.  River permits are invalid as flows are too low.
  • 50 – 600 cfs: Good for families, lifevests recommended, less experienced should scout or portage boat chutes
  • 600 – 2000 cfs: Experienced floaters only, lifevests recommended, scout or portage all rapids
  • 2000 +:  River may be closed to all uses except whitewater vessels

Groups of 15 or more, or if participants are paying a fee, require a River Use Permit - Contact the Park Manager, Skot Latona at 303.303.730.1022 or SkotL@ssprd.org.
Always Play It Safe! in all river activities.

Nature Center Hours

Tue - Fri: 12 - 4:30 pm
Sat - Sun: 9:30 am - 4:30 pm
Closed Mondays and Holidays.

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Programs supported in part by:

Proud Partner of Leave no Trace

Life is more colorful with SCFD

SCFD logo

Sheridan Inspire 


Sign up for our newsletter, Nature News, monthly by email.  To receive the quarterly paper version, email your mailing address here.