Flowing through four states, the Arkansas River is the sixth longest river in the United States. Its source basin and Arkansas River Canyon can be found in Colorado, where it is a popular spot to go whitewater rafting. It runs past the Rocky Mountains and drops extensively as it flows through the valley, creating the conditions that are good for rafting and kayaking. Depending on the section of the river there is everything from Class IV and V rapids to gentler II and III sections that are ideal for beginners. Waters weave scenically in and through canyons and gorges surrounded by thick forest and snow-capped peaks.
Aside from boating and fishing, visitors to the Arkansas River often utilize the facilities and the beautiful backdrop for activities such as hiking, camping, mountain biking, birding, and rock climbing. There is also great fly fishing in this part of the river, particularly for trout.
Denver’s 16th Street Mall is a beautiful tree-lined, pedestrian area at the heart of the city. This downtown promenade of red and gray granite is a bustling center, popular with locals and visitors alike thanks to an abundance of outdoor cafes, shops and restaurants among renovated historic buildings and modern glass skyscrapers.
The mall boasts more than 300 shops and more than 50 restaurants in a 16-block stretch of 16th Street. Some of the most popular spots include Niketown and Virgin Records’ Megastore, as well as the Hard Rock Cafe and Rock Bottom Brewery, where you can enjoy a hearty selection of draft craft beer. Along with great shopping and dining, the mall is also a hub for local street performers, with a delightful range folk and country singers performing amid dancers.
Reminiscent of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., the Colorado State Capitol Building sitting high atop Denver is not just a 24 karat gold-domed meeting place for the Colorado General Assembly, but also an homage to the American governmental process, as well as a truly beautiful archeological wonder.
Built a mile high above sea level, as denoted by the markings inscribed upon its steps, the Colorado State Capital Building has incredible views of downtown Denver, and a history that tells of the days of the Gold Rush and the incredible use of the beautiful Colorado Rose Onyx used to build the interior of the capitol and the designs of dignitaries engraved therein. It is said that the entire known supply of this rare marble was exhausted in making of the Colorado State Capitol.
Tours will tell of early Colorado history, the Capitol construction, the origin of several stained glass windows, the Woman’s Gold Tapestry.
The Denver Art Museum is recognized for its prized Native American collection, the country’s largest. Spanning the US and Canada, from prehistoric times to the present, the hugely varied collection ranges from basketry and beadwork to paintings and sculpture.
The art museum also has enviable Asian, European and US collections, and a comprehensive African gallery of paintings, sculptures and artifacts.
Iconic works by artists from the American west underscore Denver’s Rocky Mountains location and history, and the museum’s photography collection includes more than 7,000 images.
Along with the permanent collection, the museum hosts a varied calendar of temporary traveling exhibitions.
The heart of Durango is a nationally registered historic district where visitors can walk in the footsteps of the miners and railroad workers who helped settle the Wild West, though today’s Durango is quite a bit more upscale that it was when William Jackson Palmer settled the area in the late 1800s. Historic attractions include the original Strater Hotel, built in 1887, and the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, which still carries passengers between the two towns along the Animas River. The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Museum sits at the back of the railyard with exhibits describing the history of the town and the railway.
Reach into your pocket or change drawer and pull out a handful of U.S. pennies. Look carefully at their fronts—chances are most will have a small letter “D” just below the date. This is the mint mark for the Denver Mint, one of only a handful of facilities that produces U.S. currency. This particular location is a byproduct of the days when Denver was a gold-mining hub. When gold was found in Colorado in 1858, hundreds of merchants, miners and settlers moved in to claim their stake. A year later, Denver was founded, and several years after that, in 1863, the government decided to develop a mint facility here. In addition to producing money people use every day, the Denver Mint also stamps out a variety of not-in-circulation commemorative coins.
The grand architecture of the massive Renaissance-style 1904 mint building itself is worth checking out. To go inside, visitors must sign up for one of the free tours, which includes historical exhibits, vaults and gold bars.
Connecting Durago to Silverton on a scenic journey through the San Juan mountains of Colorado, the historic Narrow Gauge Railroad has been operating since 1882. Originally constructed to haul gold and silver ore between the two towns, it is known for its extraordinary wilderness scenery. It is one of the few places in the United States that has continuously operated steam engines. A journey on the vintage train today allows for access to mountainous areas of Colorado that you can’t get to by car. Train tracks line the beautiful Animas River, and out of the windows you will see some of America’s best canyon views. It passes back and forth over the river while crossing expansive farmlands and former stagecoach lines and mining camps. Often local wildlife — deer, elk, Bighorn sheep, and even the occasional black bear — make an appearance on the journey. The train allows for both a visit back in history, and through modern Colorado wildness that remains largely untouched.