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Cottonwood Marsh photo by Peter Burke

South Platte Greenway Gravel Pits (south section) - Adams County
Aliases: 88th and the South Platte, Dahlia Ponds, Sprat Platte Fishing Facility
Ownership: None Listed
Description: This covers the gravel pits along the South Platte corridor between about 80th and 104th Avenues, including the area sometimes referred to by birders as "88th and the South Platte" or "the Dahlia ponds." The latter place is the premier spot for wintering waterfowl in the Metro Region. All the regular wintering dabblers and divers can usually be found with a concerted search, and a couple of Barrow's Goldeneyes are usually present, though finding them can sometimes require a long cold walk. Long-tailed Ducks have vacationed in this area a few times also, and such rarities as Little Blue Heron have toured it in spring. There is a good chance for low-density wintering waterbirds such as Killdeer, Great Blue Heron, and Double-crested Cormorant, and the weeds and brush along the river trail can harbor sparrow flocks worth checking for White-throated and Harris'. Thanks to the bird diversity, raptors including Peregrine Falcon often winter in the area.

Many of the gravel pits in this complex can be scanned from the side of Dahlia Avenue south of 88th. Dahlia can be busy, but with caution you should be able to find places to pull over to check all the water on both sides of the road. Some ponds on the west side of the South Platte must be checked on foot. From the parking lot on the southwest corner of 88th and the South Platte, walk a half-mile south to scan a couple of ponds on the west side of the river embankment. Walk a half-mile north from the parking lot to find the pond where the Little Blue Heron spent time. West of here, on the east side of Riverdale Avenue, is a much smaller pond that may attract a few dabblers in migration.

East of Dahlia along 88th a few more ponds become visible. The one to the south is best scanned from Dahlia. The ones to the north are best viewed from the dead end of E. 89th Avenue, which heads west from 88th as the latter street bends north towards the I-76 exit.

Just before the I-76 exit along 88th, you can turn left (north) onto a frontage road west of I-76, then left again onto Monaco Street, which winds around and eventually becomes McKay Road. A large gravel pit well to the west is visible, but not really birdable from the road north of the exit before the river crossing. On the west side of the river, however, before 100th Avenue, there are nice gravel pit ponds on either side of McKay, which can attract good numbers of divers in migration and can be scanned quite adequately from the side of the road. The pond on the left (south) is the euphoniously named Sprat Platte Fishing Facility, operated as a park by the city of Thornton. A few smaller, less productive ponds can be found a half-mile north on the north side of 104th Avenue on either side of where it crosses the South Platte River.

Habitat: Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Marsh, Lowland Riparian, Stream, Urban/Suburban
Directions: This area is best reached from the 88th Avenue exit off I-76. Following 88th Avenue west from this exit will take you past 1) the frontage road on the right, which will take you to Monaco St north, which becomes McKay; 2) 89th Ave on the right, the short dead-end street with scanning potential; 3) Dahlia St on the left; and 4) the South Platte River, with trailhead parking just beyond it on the left (south).
Other Wildlife:
Other Attractions:

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Latest South Platte Greenway Gravel Pits (south section) Sightings from eBird


CBRC Records from South Platte Greenway Gravel Pits (south section)

SpeciesAccession No.Date(s)
Duck Hybrid2014-18721 Mar 2014
Short-billed Gull2000-0511/1/2000
Iceland Gull2015-028 03/06/2015
Field Sparrow56-89-55 2 Jan 1988