Get to Know Your Greenway
Frog Hollow Park
By: J.J. Clark
SPREE Staff Writer
Other Get to Know Your Greenway Articles on left
Frog Hollow Park is situated with I-25 to the east, 6th avenue to the south, and fenced industry to the west. This stretch of the South Platte River sees more commuters than visitors. It is more often a place in between rather than a destination in itself. The trail winds calmly beneath the 6th avenue onramp to I-25 and a gentle Kentucky Bluegrass bank rises on the east side to dull the noise of the interstate as you head downstream. The grass hill is planted with evergreens while the steep riverbank has young Cottonwood trees, willows, and a few Common Mullein among other plants. The park offers a few picnic tables, a boat dock, and countless places to throw a blanket by the river for a secluded picnic in the city. Perhaps Frog Hollow Park’s most noteworthy component is the urban wildlife that finds its home on the steep banks of this hidden stretch of the South Platte River.
As you head downstream, chewed stems and felled trees give the presence of a beaver away. At Sixth Avenue you encounter an aesthetic that is so rare in cities. The sixth avenue overpass curves directly over the river at a quiet spot with rocks on the banks and willows growing all around. The South Platte trickles over its rocks while the people of Denver pass overhead. Under this bridge it is easy to see how this river was once neglected, but even easier to see why it is considered one of Denver’s greatest assets.
I took a walk with my dog to the west side of the river at 8th Avenue where low waters had exposed a wide rock-bar that the geese and ducks treat as a private resort beach. The “island,” which stretched from 8th Avenue halfway to 6th, is at the bottom of steep grassy banks and made of mostly rocks and fresh water clamshells. There is a small dirt path on the top of the bank that runs adjacent to the Robinson Dairy as well as numerous other storage yards and industrial spaces. The path dead ends in a border made of trees and chain link.
River access on the west side is limited by the steep-banks and brush. There is no clear or trodden path to get next to the water. Even on the rocky beach the urban atmosphere is inescapable. The trucks in the yards and the highway mixed with the quiet flow of the water into an orchestra of the urban South Platte. After a few hundred feet down the rocky beach a noise came from the entangled brush on the bank. I looked toward the noise, which I could barely hear over the forklift moving palettes immediately overhead, and from the thicket burst a red fox. Just as quickly as he appeared, he drifted downstream and was out of sight in moments.
When I first arrived at Frog Hollow Park it seemed its name belied a desire for more wilderness than it had to offer. But at this park, trees are chewed at night by beaver, and at the end of the private beach where the highway rumbles and the noise of industry flanks the water, there are wild animals finding their own space pinched between 6th avenue and 8th on the South Platte River trail.
Next time you pass from 6th avenue to I-25 in traffic, be sure to think that right below you, someone is on a bike, someone is walking, someone is resting, and there might be a fox napping or being scared out of his hole by a passerby right on the banks of the South Platte River.