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A kayaker conquers the rapids at Eagle River Park. Photo courtesy of the town of Eagle.

Cool Off in 4 New Colorado River Parks

Turns out, humans actually can improve upon nature’s designs. These splash zones prove it.

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Engineered river parks opening around the state are tweaking the flow of existing waterways (or building new ones) to create exhilarating rapids and tranquil swimming holes. Score one for human ingenuity—and your summer.

1. Eagle River Park

Opened Memorial Day weekend; free

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Until recently, the river running through downtown Eagle was merely scenery. No longer: The city government transformed the 3,000-foot stretch into a white-water playground. The first two sections cater to expert kayakers capable of somersaulting through waves. (If you’re not ready for 18-inch drops, a channel to the left skirts these bigger rapids.) The final two segments, which opened this past summer, provide gentle ripples perfect for tubers and beginners learning to kayak the currents.

Après-splash: Once your adrenaline wanes, head to Bonfire Brewing, a five-minute walk down Grand Avenue, to reminisce about the day’s epic tricks and hilarious fails.

2. Sopris Splash Zone

Slated to open this month; free with Glenwood Hot Springs Resort entry (starting at $18)

Glenwood Hot Springs Resort is unveiling a water park that caters to its youngest patrons with a toddler pool, splash pad, and trio of mini slides. But those ready for a wilder ride should grab a tube and head to the Shoshone Chutes, a 700-foot-long adventure river. At a flow rate of 32,000 gallons of water per minute, it’s nearly twice as fast as Boulder Creek. The man-made route’s sharp curves and steep drop-offs imitate a mountain stream, while landscaping, such as wax currant shrubs, mimics Colorado’s scenery.

Après-splash: Taps rotate often at Glenwood Springs Brew Garden, and each pour tastes especially refreshing under the patio’s shade-providing locust trees.

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3. Poudre River Whitewater Park

Slated to open late summer; free
(Editor’s note: This park has still not opened)

An $11.5 million restoration will transform a 1,000-foot-long, swampy section of the Cache La Poudre River into healthy habitat for fish, critters, and water-loving humans. Located just north of Fort Collins’ Old Town, the park includes areas where kayakers, tubers, and paddleboarders will be able to bound over whitecaps or attempt to surf the recirculating waves created by stacked boulders. An ADA ramp provides wheelchair access to the river, and a pool along the north bank lets toddlers cool off in relative safety.

Après-splash: At Old Town Putt, new to the Exchange food hall this May, young’uns can down fruity slushies after mini-golf (yes, there are boozy versions for the 21-plus crowd).

4. Cañon City Whitewater Park

Opened early May; free

Scott Shipley knows a thing or two about adrenaline—the slalom kayaker has competed in three separate Olympics—so the new, 1,500 foot long whitewater park he designed on the Arkansas River will definitely increase heart rates. Built alongside Centennial Park, the park caters to all athletic levels, ensuring a family filled day on the water. Experienced kayakers can maneuver through the course’s slalom gates while SUP surfers and tubers alike hurtle over the park’s waves, dubbed Flytrap and Nessman, as their fans watch from the nearby bleachers. A small, rock-enclosed wad-pool keeps young visitors away from the rapids without forfeiting splash time.

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Après-splash: Finish your family outing with a trip across the river to Main Street to Teek. Mismatched chairs and exposed brick give the local farm-to-table eatery a warm, homey feel— a fun setting for trying create takes on classic dishes, like the Curried Chicken Tacos and the Greek burger infused with red wine and oregano.

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