Milliken 'pond'ers Riparian Life at South Platte Park

'Dew' you ever wonder how river ecosystems 'otter' look like? Whenever I think of riparian habitat, my mind 'meanders' through a 'stream' of bird species, cottonwoods, and insects. The fourth graders of Milliken Elementary were in for a treat when their class took a trip to South Platte Park, just south of Denver.

Naturalists at South Platte started by educating the students on the history of the Park, followed by exploration of the Carson Nature Center.

The South Platte River naturally meanders through Denver and, just like any river, is prone to flooding. In 1965, the Denver area experienced one of the biggest floods in its history. The river's depths rose to about 12 feet, demolishing everything in its path. There are still remnants of a train cart that is rumored to have been washed by the flood all the way from Sedalia. You can find the frame of the train cart on the hiking trail.

Rusty train cart remnants

As a result of the '65 flood, the Chatfield Dam was created, and shortly after, South Platte Park was established to monitor water flow.

In the Nature Center, they were given a challenge that involved reading about all of the biotic and abiotic factors that make up a riparian ecosystem. They also had the chance to mimic the flow behavior of a river! This was fun because they were able to simulate a flood and predict where the safest place would be for housing.

After their time in the Nature Center, it was time for a hike along the South Platte. Here, they observed many signs of wildlife, including beaver teeth marks, goose feathers, and a rat castle!

A collection of feathers found by the students

Rat castle left by wood rats!

Pack rats create mound of sticks and leaves, and to keep it waterproof, they urinate on top of it. Their urine acts as a sort of cement that keeps the inside of the mound dry. These rat castles have been found globally, and some have even been discovered to be over 10,000 years old!

During the hike, they were able to actually observe what they learned in the nature center. They identified cattails, cottonwoods, a red-tailed hawk, and several dry river banks that were left by the river in the past.

The students of Milliken had a blast observing the riparian ecosystems and admiring the great outdoors. Thanks South Platte for an unforgettable experience!

#SouthPlattePark #SOLE #hiking #birdsofprey #riparian #Ecosystems #Wildlife #carsonnaturecenter

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