Cañon City, Colorado

The Cañon City River Whitewater Park was a transformational project. As has happened to so many river towns throughout the American west, the river had been channelized, armored, and dams had been created through the downtown area. The project was a revitalization of the river that recognized the river’s need to function in its natural manner, but also its value to the town as a recreational amenity and as the focal point of their City Park. S2O Design transformed the river from a concrete-lined channel to a stunning natural waterway with rounded granite boulders, natural rapids, kids access and play areas, and fully functional surfing and kayaking features throughout the park.  The park also provides a kids fun play area.

The project had three overarching goals:

  1. Recreation Enhancement – Recreational improvements enhance the river experience for both city visitors and members of the local community. Instream enhancements will provide a dynamic experience for rafters, kayakers and tubers; creating a valuable city attraction. While riverbank enhancements such as a connected trail system and open plan areas provide a relaxing out of water river experience
  2. Beautification of the River Corridor – Following earlier construction work, large quantities of concrete rubble and debris were present throughout the proposed project area. Debris removal and restoring the area’s ecosystem will aid in creating a thriving natural river and visually appealing parkland for all public users.
  3. Habitat Restoration – As part of the proposed project work, instream developments provided valuable habitat for fisheries. Boulders tactfully installed as velocity barriers will aid in creation of fish habitat and holding areas, while riffles and pools along current seams provide ample habitat opportunities for fish stock. By creating a multistage channel with stepped banks, riparian vegetation can be restored, providing critical habitat for macro-invertebrates, further enhancing fish ecological benefits and angling opportunities through Cañon City. A fish passage design approach, in collaboration with a  fish biologist, will set a new standard for fish passage in whitewater park structures.