"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."
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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.
Venice on the Creek
$10 one way, $15 round trip for adults; family tickets $25. For details and reservations, call 303-893-0750 or go to www.greenwayfoundation. org
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."