"A miserable yellow melancholy stream" was how Mark Twain described the South Platte River. Fortunately, the Greenway Foundation -- established thirty years ago to transform the Platte from a dumping ground into an urban amenity -- chose the riverway less traveled by when it first floated a boat past Confluence Park.
What started as Punt the Creek nine years ago is now Venice on the Creek, an attraction that takes riders on flat-bottomed British boats, or punts, along Cherry Creek from Creekfront Park at the end of Larimer Street to Confluence and back. "There was a lot of confusion about football and stuff like that," says Jolon Clark, who started as a guide eight years ago, when he was still in high school, and is now the manager of Venice on the Creek. "So we decided to change our name last year."
Other changes include candlelit rides at the end of the evening, as well as the scenes those candles illuminate. A half-dozen years ago, there were still plenty of bums hanging out on the banks of Cherry Creek.
"Now there are million-dollar lofts down there, and we don't see many homeless," says Clark.
Although groups have been able to book tours since June 1, the season officially opens on Friday, June 4. That's when would-be punters can walk up to the Creekfront kiosk anytime between 4 and 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 and 7 p.m. Sundays, and sign up for trips on the spot. (Candelight rides begin at 8:30 p.m.)
There's nothing particularly Venetian about the 75-minute round trip, but the guides do stand up in back, using poles to propel the punts along the shallow waterway. And they accessorize their red shirts -- "If my boss could find them, he'd have us in stripes," says Clark -- with black golf caps worn backward to look like French berets. "There's a little bit from here, a little bit from there," Clark concludes. "But it's all Denver."