This black-crowned night-heron was stalking the hissing water along Cherry Creek in Denver. The walkway and bike trail along the creek is used by hundreds of people each day, so the bird paid no heed to the human traffic. Just like the famous animals of the Galapagos, urban animals (human and non-human alike) can be observed in close quarters.
Cherry Creek runs through the heart of town. On its banks Denver’s history has played out: the brutal removal of Arapahoe Indians, the booming population of immigrant settlers whose incomprehension of flash floods caused early versions of Denver to wash downstream, typhoid epidemics as the creek’s waters served both as drinking water source and sewer, extensive industrialization that turned the creek into an inaccessible tangle of railroads and warehouses, and the work of generations of civil servants whose commitment to reclaiming the vitality of the creek has turned it into a much-used garland of greenways and parks.
On Saturday afternoon, the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte hosted nearly two hundred picnickers, swimmers and walkers. Hundreds more passed on the riverside trails. This is a phenomenal achievement for Denver: no longer are the joys of Colorado’s waters available only to those with the money and time to drive to wilderness fly-fishing spots. Some of that wild water flows right through the city, bringing fish to the night-heron and pleasure to the weekend amblers. The water erodes just a small part of the many, many barriers that divide our society.