Tubing at Chatfield Reservoir: A Colorado Adventure


Bordered by cottonwood trees, this glistening lake on the South Platte River offers visitors a chance to soak up the best of Colorado’s natural beauty while gliding across pristine waters. From laid-back family tubing adventures to adrenaline-pumping kayak rides through whitewater rapids, Chatfield entices outdoorsy types with its wealth of activities.

Hikers, bikers, birdwatchers, picnickers, and photographers flock to the lake to admire its wildlife and wildflowers. Whether you dream of conquering Class III rapids or spending an afternoon on the water with your family, Chatfield Reservoir offers memorable outdoor experiences for all.

Its stunning high plains landscape, abundance of recreational opportunities, and charming hospitality continue to make Chatfield State Park one of Colorado’s most beloved destinations. Visitors find themselves planning return trips as soon as they leave, eager for more adventures in one of the state’s many natural treasures.


  • Only minutes from downtown Denver, Chatfield Reservoir provides endless Rocky Mountain views and abundant outdoor recreational opportunities on the water and the shore.
  • The park's convenient location allows urban dwellers in Denver quick access to a landscape that feels worlds away from the city bustle. Meanwhile, those visiting Chatfield Reservoir as a vacation destination have access to downtown Denver.
  • The park boasts over fifteen miles of shoreline dotted with secluded coves, sandy beaches, grassy knolls, and streamside cottonwood groves. This diversity of terrain coupled with the reservoir's rich aquatic ecosystem makes Chatfield a recreational mecca.

Local Flavor Enhances the Chatfield Experience

Beyond its wealth of outdoor recreation, Chatfield Reservoir lies minutes from the restaurants, breweries, and cultural attractions of Littleton’s historic downtown. From locally sourced cuisine to live music venues, Littleton’s small-town vibe infuses charm into any Chatfield visit.

The district’s pedestrian-friendly streets allow visitors to easily sample craft brews, shop for antiques and art, or grab a bite from award-winning eateries. Local favorites like the Breckenridge Brewery and The Fort Steakhouse incorporate fresh, regional ingredients into their menus.

Annual cultural events like the Western Welcome Week rodeo and the Festival Italiano street fair celebrate the area’s Western heritage and European roots. Through authentic local experiences like these, guests visiting Chatfield Reservoir can fully immerse themselves in Littleton’s community and culture.

Make a Splash with Chatfield’s Water Sports

For many visitors, the main attraction of Chatfield State Park lies in its wealth of water recreation. The reservoir offers some of the best flatwater paddling in Colorado, while the South Platte River provides a playground for whitewater thrill-seekers.

On the reservoir, visitors can rent kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, pedal boats, and other watercraft to explore the lake’s sandy coves and lush shorelines. With limited powerboating allowed, the flatwaters offer serene paddling and prime wildlife viewing. Trout fishing is also popular on the lake, where anglers can reel in healthy rainbow and brown trout.

For those seeking an adrenaline rush, the South Platte River’s Class II-III rapids promise a wild ride. Thrill-seekers flock to the river to tube through the whitewater, which provides rollicking fun for families and groups. Rental companies offer tubes and rafts just minutes from the best rapids.

Recent water quality testing shows higher nutrient levels and clarity than the average Front Range reservoir. These favorable conditions make watersports safe and appealing for people of all ages. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely paddle or a heart-pounding ride through rapids, Chatfield has the perfect water activity to match your interests.

Family-Friendly Recreation for All Ages

With its calm coves, sandy beaches, shaded picnic areas, and gentle rapids, Chatfield Reservoir entices families looking to recreate with the dramatic foothills of the Front Range as a backdrop. Parents can relax while kids splash safely on the swim beach. They can also glide across the lake by paddleboat or discover wildlife on one of the reservoir’s many trails.

Young children delight in the park’s hands-on discovery center, which offers interactive exhibits and educational programs focused on Chatfield’s ecology. Junior Rangers can earn badges through various activities that engage kids with nature.

With picnic shelters, playgrounds, shallow coves, and gentle rapids perfect for tubing, Chatfield State Park makes it easy for parents and children alike to enjoy the very best of Colorado’s natural playground. The entire family will make lasting memories while exploring the park’s wealth of recreation.

Reel in the Big One: Fishing at Chatfield Reservoir

Anglers flock to Chatfield Reservoir to reel in rainbow trout, brown trout, yellow perch, walleye, and smallmouth bass. Stocked annually by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the lake harbors healthy, catchable trout ready to bite a line.

The reservoir’s many coves, points, and drop-offs are conducive to fishing. Whether casting their lines from shore or a boat, anglers should concentrate efforts early and late in the day when trout are most active. Productive times to fish also coincide with insect hatches, which usually occur on warmer mid-summer evenings.

While trout fishing takes the spotlight at Chatfield, don’t miss opportunities to hook hefty walleye and feisty smallmouth bass. These species lurk near submerged timber and rock piles further from shore. Bottom-bouncing rigs and crankbaits tend to tempt them best.

To preserve Chatfield’s fisheries for future generations, anglers should harvest fish responsibly and adhere to all regulations. Consider releasing larger trout and bass to maintain trophy populations. By implementing sustainable practices and conservation ethics, we can protect the reservoir’s exceptional angling.

Seasonal Adventures

One of Chatfield State Park’s greatest assets lies in its diverse ecosystem harboring plant and animal life through the seasons. Migrating songbirds stop by the cottonwood forests in spring, wildflowers carpet the foothills in summer, and golden aspens contrast with evergreen pines in fall. Visitors in tune with the seasonal changes can discover new adventures during each visit.

Spring welcomes the return of many bird species that wintered further south. Red-winged blackbirds, yellow warblers, and Bullock’s orioles are part of the habitat and bring a burst of color and song to the wooded wetlands. Paddlers might spot great blue herons and pelicans fishing in the shallows. Early summer finds trout and walleye in the shallows, allowing for great shore fishing.

By mid-summer, watersports under sunny skies reign supreme. Families explore the reservoir on paddle boards and kayaks, while daredevils run the South Platte rapids. Anglers find active trout near dusk. Wildflowers like sunflowers and purple coneflowers blanket the foothills in vibrant color.

As the aspens turn gold in early autumn, cooler temperatures shift the focus to hiking and mountain biking in the park. Wildlife such as mule deer and elk descend from higher elevations to forage near the reservoir. Hardy anglers can still find success jigging for walleye and bass. The park quiets down as winter weather approaches.

Thrills and Spills: Whitewater Tubing Adventures

For those seeking a rush of adrenaline, the South Platte River’s rapids promise a wild ride just minutes from Chatfield Reservoir. Here, the river cuts through a dramatic gorge, gaining speed and ferocity. The foaming whitewater builds into Class II and III rapids, offering rollicking thrills for river runners.

While experts can tackle the rapids in rafts and kayaks, tubing the South Platte has become a right of passage for many natives. Rental companies offer tubes just upstream from the rapids outside the park. Groups float and splash through the fast-moving currents.

The rapids sit just above a calmer section perfect for families. Little ones and less adventurous tubers can ride the gentle downstream waves.

When combined with an afternoon paddling Chatfield Reservoir’s tranquil waters, tubing the South Platte River is the ultimate Colorado water adventure. It’s no wonder so many whitewater enthusiasts and thrill-seekers make this area their playground for summer fun. Chatfield Marina offers boat rentals and boat storage.

Camp Under the Stars at Chatfield

To fully immerse in the sights and sounds of nature at Chatfield, year-round camping allows visitors to experience the reservoir long after the crowds leave. The Chatfield State Park Campground offers over 500 campsites, many with electrical and water hookups for RVs.

Campers can fall asleep to the hoots of great horned owls and awaken to golden sunrise views of the Front Range’s peaks. Mornings find wildlife like deer, foxes, and coyotes wandering near camp. Avid anglers will enjoy catching the morning bite before paddling out from a private stretch of shoreline.

Night skies open up to a blanket of stars unencumbered by city lights. Campers should keep an eye out for shooting stars and satellites while enjoying the campfire. Just be sure to safely store any food and scented items, as black bears still roam these foothills.

By spending the night, campers become immersed in the natural rhythms of Chatfield’s wilderness. Tenting or RVing allows for deeper connections with the reservoir’s ecosystem. As the cottonwood leaves rustle in the breeze, the troubles of civilization dissipate.


How do I get to Chatfield State Park?

Chatfield State Park sits only 45 minutes from downtown Denver just outside Littleton, Colorado. From C-470, take the Wadsworth exit and head south for four miles until you see the entrance on your left.

What are the operating hours?

The park is open daily from 5 am to 10 pm during the summer season. Certain areas like the swimming beach may have shorter hours.

Is there an entrance fee?

Yes, access to the state park requires a daily or annual park pass priced per vehicle. Passes range from $9 for a daily pass to $80 for an annual pass. Campers need to reserve campsites separately.

Are dogs allowed in Chatfield State Park?

Leashed dogs are welcome in certain areas of Chatfield, but not on the swim beach. Owners must clean up after pets. Dogs are allowed at campsites for an additional fee.

Is the water safe for swimming and paddling?

Yes, regular water quality testing shows the reservoir and river are safe for recreation. Always check currents before entering the South Platte, as river conditions vary.

Do I need a fishing license?

Anyone over sixteen will need a valid Colorado fishing license to fish from shore or watercraft. Buy multi-day licenses online or from local bait shops.

Does Chatfield Reservoir provide drinking water to the area’s residents?

In addition to offering ample recreational opportunities and safety from flooding, Chatfield Reservoir serves as water storage for local communities. In this way, it can be considered one of Colorado’s natural resources.


About the author

Ransom Patterson

My expertise in Colorado life extends beyond just residing here; it’s also about living actively within the community. I spend my time cycling through Denver’s trails, experimenting with local cuisines, and immersing myself in the local music scene. These activities give me a unique perspective on the cultural and outdoor offerings of Colorado. This hands-on approach allows me to provide insider tips and personal recommendations that resonate with both locals and visitors alike.