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Walking Walsenburg

WALSENBURG — Fiesta Park, 900 Russell Avenue – home of the Huerfano County Community Center, ball fields, community garden and future off-leash dog park – is a good place to start a shady trip along the Cucharas River. This mile long stretch of the river from Fiesta Park to City Park is an easy route for walkers or bike riders and presents a very good example of a southern Colorado riparian ecosystem. Riparian areas have much denser, taller and lusher vegetation due to the constant or near constant source of flowing water. The thickly growing plants provide shelter and food for a wide variety of birds and other animals. Observant travelers along the river can spot orioles, tanagers, robins, warblers, and woodpeckers, depending on the season. Owls and hawks can be seen all year. Raccoon, deer, opossum, beaver and bear tracks are often seen along the soft muddy banks. Squirrels scamper and chitter from the branches high overhead. Several beaver dams along this stretch of river slow the progress of the flowing water and ensure their

builders and other creatures have adequate water throughout the year. The trailhead at Fiesta Park is about a hundred yards east of the community center parking area. To find the trailhead, pass through the park perimeter fence and follow the shady tree-lined path which curves between the ball fields. There are fence posts installed which mark the edge of the proposed off-leash dog park. The access to the river trail is inside the dog park area. There is a large green metal gate and a metal “crawl-through” at the trailhead. The trail is very well marked with a thick gravel base. Bikers and hikers alike will enjoy the sound of the running water as the trail follows the river all the way to City Park one mile away. The first part of the trail winds around to the south of Fiesta Park and follows a WPA constructed sandstone wall and stone embankment which helps stem flooding. The quality construction of the wall is evident since it is still standing strong after 80 years of Huerfano weather and who knows how many floods. At the end of the rock wall is another gate and small parking area. The trail now leads out of Fiesta Park to South Main. Follow the trail south across the Cucharas River Bridge (constructed in 1933). There is a convenient pedestrian walk on the east side of the bridge with a protective rail between hiker/biker and the road. Once across the bridge, the trail turns west and follows West 11th Street. West 11th Street resembles a country lane with few houses and some horse corrals and old barns. The road is lined with tall trees as well as low growing shrubs of chokecherry, willow and tamarisk. Even though downtown is only four blocks away, the city bustle is missing here. The river, now on the north side of the trail, serenades with the restful sound of running water. The constant bird song and cottonwood leaves rippling in the breeze add to the country charm. The trail stays on W. 11th Street as it winds along the river and under the railroad bridge and eventually intersects with South Ysidro Street. The trail turns north across the river and the destination, City Park, is one block northwest of the bridge. The weary traveler can rest under the shade of the park trees or cool off at Walsenburg Wild Waters before the hike back to the car at Fiesta Park. The Cucharas River trail is a wonderful year-round trail whose appearance constantly changes with the seasons. The tall trees and protective banks make this trail a favorite of mine when the wind is blowing too hard to enjoy other favorite walking trips around Walsenburg. Large shade trees, flowing water and broad, well constructed gravel trails make the Cucharas River trail an easily accessible and refresjing walk on a hot summer day. Photos by Edi Flanagin