Colorado History

"Two Rivers" Rises Again at Confluence Park

"Two Rivers" Rises Again at Confluence Park
Denver Department of Parks and Recreation
Mayor Michael Hancock celebrated the reopening of the renovated Shoemaker Plaza at Confluence Park on October 14. The completion of the Confluence Park project — delayed by the discovery of contamination in the river banks — marks the start of Phase II of River Vision, the expanded plan to improve the South Platte River corridor and make it the premier outdoor recreation destination and environmental educational resource for the city and the state. It's already as close as Denver comes to a public beach.

The park looks great and, as promised, the plaque embossed with the poem "Two Rivers," by Thomas Hornsby Ferril, Colorado's first poet laureate, who commemorated the spot where Denver got its start, is back in place, buffed up and with a more prominent display. Here's the poem:

Two rivers that were here before there was
a city still come together: one is a mountain
river flowing into the prairie, one is a prairie
river flowing toward the mountains but
feeling them and turning back the way
some of the people who came here did.


Most of the time these people hardly seemed
to realize they wanted to be remembered,
because the mountains told them not to die.


I wasn't here, yet I remember them, that first
night long ago, those wagon people who
pushed aside enough of the cottonwoods
to build our city where the blueness rested
.

They were with me, they told me afterward,
when I stood on a splintered wooden viaduct
before it changed to steel and I to a man. They
told me while I stared down at the water:
"If you stay we will not go away."


Thomas Hornsby Ferril wrote here. - WESTWORD
Thomas Hornsby Ferril wrote here.
Westword
But another Ferril landmark is gone for good, at least officially: the house in the 2100 block of Downing Street where the poet lived for 88 years. After Ferril died in 1988, his daughter sold the historic home to Historic Denver for a dollar; the deal called for it to be used as a literary center to honor her father's legacy. And it was...until ownership was transferred to the Center for the Book, which later merged with Colorado Humanities, which sold the building several years ago.

Today it is a private residence.

In addition to Confluence Park, there's another spot where you can see Ferril's words: Eight murals in the rotunda of the Colorado State Capitol that were painted in 1940 by Colorado artist Allen True are accompanied by excerpts from a Ferril poem.
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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun