Sloan’s Lake Park in west Denver is the city’s second-largest park, and it’s a beauty. Spanning 177 acres, it’s a bit of an urban oasis. In addition to water sports such as fishing, boating, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding, it boasts two playgrounds, tennis courts, multiple athletic fields, boating, basketball courts, multi-use trails, and picnic areas. There is something for everyone at this spot.
Interestingly, Sloan’s Lake was not always a part of Denver’s landscape. Before the 1860s there was no lake, only a road that connected Denver, CO to Golden. Homesteader Thomas Sloan acquired the land from Andrew Jackson around 1866, with plans to use it for agricultural purposes. Legend says that in the process of digging a well, Sloan inadvertently tapped into an underground aquifer resulting in the appearance of the lake. Sloan died in 1874, and the new owners developed the area for recreation, constructing the Manhattan Beach amusement park on the northwest shore. With a Ferris wheel, roller coasters, and a theater, the park was a popular destination until it burned in 1908. Attractions were reinstalled and the new Luna Park was in business until 1914 when it closed due to competition from the nearby Lakeside Amusement Park.
Exploring Sloan’s Lake Park offers several surprises. In one section of the park, there is a memorial to the USS Grayling, a submarine lost in 1943 off the coast of the Philippines. It was erected by the Colorado Mile Hi Diggers Chapter of the US Submarine Veterans of World War II. Near the renovated wharf, you will see a kinetic sculpture entitled “Lake Totem”, created by local artist Andy Dufford in 2011. It’s an interactive piece that honors the birds that live in or visit this park. The carved pelican is created from Colorado Yule Marble. Children love to turn the hand crank that will send water down the pelican’s chest.
Furthermore, the park offers stunning views of the Rocky Mountains and the Denver skyline, making it a great spot for catching a sunset. As part of Sloan’s Lake Park’s summer activities, it hosts the two-day Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, which is regarded as one of the best in the state. The area was made into a public park in 1923, and portions of the lake were filled and stabilized for the construction of Sheridan Boulevard. The Works Progress Administration constructed a channel between Sloan’s Lake and nearby Cooper Lake between 1931 and 1935, essentially combining the two bodies of water. Currently, the park is surrounded by residential neighborhoods and consists of a narrow strip of lawn planted with mature canopy trees, which buffer the lake from the adjacent streets. The northern part of the park includes a marina and recreation fields, while a wetland has been improved to treat stormwater, and a 2.5-mile paved trail circumnavigates the lake.
Furthermore, while visiting the park, be sure to explore some of the nearby side streets, which are currently undergoing quite a bit of new development. One spot to check out is historic 25th Avenue, west of Sheridan, in Edgewater. This mural spotted on the side of a building on the 25th references Georges Seurat’s well-known painting and perfectly captures the laid-back ambiance of the area. Sloan’s Lake Park is open Mondays-Fridays, from 9 AM to 5 PM with no entrance fee. Just make sure to bring whatever trash you have so as not to be fined by the management.
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