South Platte River Run Park

South Platte Working Group | Sheridan, CO

A major flood in 1965 devastated the Denver Metro Area. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, local communities, state agencies and the federal government came together to build a flood control system to protect the public from the next flood including Chatfield, Cherry Creek, and Bear Creek reservoirs and rebuild the South Platte River, including at the River Run Park site. The project was designated as a Congressionally Authorized Flood Control Project and designed by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The project was successful from a flood control perspective, but it left a single-purposed river, without the multi-faceted function that defines healthy rivers. When components of the original project began to fail needing replacement, the vision included improvements to the river beyond simply flood control. With a goal to restore the river and provide recreation, habitat, economic development AND flood protection, the South Platte River Run Park was born.

This signature river park celebrates the river holistically; restores the river; and provides recreation, access, flood protection, and full park amenities. It features a mile of regional trails, restrooms, playground, events shelter, parking areas, access trails, terrace seating, viewing areas, whitewater waves (for river surfing), aquatic habitat structures, revegetation, and upgrades to the existing diversion intake. The park now draws hundreds of users to the area each weekend, providing economic development for the community and framing the river as an asset to the community that must be protected.

Merrick & Company served as the prime and design team lead.

The River Run Park project’s accomplishments include:

  • Overcoming Low Flow Conditions to Create a Resilient River Channel that Provides Habitats and Water Recreation Without Affecting Flood Control.
  • Overcoming Low Flow Conditions to Create a High-Performance Surf Wave.
  • Creating Innovative Fish Habitats that Meet Flood Control and River User Safety Requirements.
  • Transforming This Once Forgotten Stretch of the River to an Economic Driver that Encourages Healthy Lifestyles and Sparks Interest in River Design in those as Young as Elementary School.
  • Receiving Unique USACE Approval to Build a River Park Within a Congressionally Authorized Flood Control Project.


Civil Engineering;river recreation;river restoration;whitewater; engineering; consulting


First Place, Innovative Water Project Award from the National Association of Flood and Stormwater Management Agencies (NAFSMA)

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