Where the River Bends
it may be paved. "We feel because of the volume of traffic we will get that asphalt will be a lot more desirable than gravel, both from a maintenance standpoint and a dust standpoint."
From this site, a two-lane gravel road will continue to a point near the river confluence. A disabled-accessible path, including a boardwalk through the timber, will lead from the road to an overview of the confluence. A pad or deck at this site will be large enough for a school group to occupy, possibly while listening to a naturalist describe the natural history of the area.
The name of the area is something of a mystery. Leifield says 19th century maps even refer to it as Columbia Bottom. There was once a small community there called Columbia, and there was a Columbia Bottom school, but it's unknown if they took their name from the bottomland, or vice versa. The town, later called St. Vrain, faded away in the 1870s.
"The city bought the land in the 1940s with the thought of locating an airport there," Leifield says. "If you look around you will see clumps of mature cottonwoods or maples, and most of those can be associated with old house sites or farmsteads." The airport never materialized, and the land in the interim has been leased to farmers.
The Conservation Department will probably build a combination headquarters and visitor center on a high spot of land on the north side of the area. The site is not big, but large enough for a building. It has a hill behind it, and there will probably be a trail leading up the hill where visitors can get a view of the whole river floodplain.
The headquarters is proposed to include a multi-purpose room large enough to accommodate 60 to 70 people in classroom seating and have exhibits, such as a relief map of the area, an aquarium to display fish of the large river system, a kiosk with a video about the area and other exhibits, to familiarize visitors with the site, its ecology and management.
The Conservation Department hopes to begin putting facilities in place in 2000 and have all the planned developments usable by 2004. Portions of the crops grown on the area in the future will be left in the field as wildlife foods.
Leifield hopes to have a conservation naturalist on staff, possibly aided by volunteer naturalists, such as those at