On the lower side of LODO (Lower Downtown) where Cherry Creek meets the South Platte River is Confluence Park, the birthplace of Denver. Before it became Denver, the area was an encampment for the Arapahoe Indians. The U.S. government officially recognized that the land belonged to the Native Americans in the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty. However, when gold was discovered in 1858 and whites moved in mass to the area the treaty was unofficially forgotten. William McGaa, (known by many as “Jack Jones”) mountain man, trapper, trader, camped around the Confluence with his friends the Arapahoe. Fond of the bottle and a renowned story teller McGaa was said to have been educated in Dublin, Ireland and to have been a son of an Irish baronet ” he also boasted that he was son of the Lord Mayor of London and had a family estate in Scotland, Glen Arm. McGaa was married to or consorted with a number of native women from various tribes. He rationalized that he had authority to transfer land from his “wives” relatives. McGaa along with William Larimer acquired the land for the settlement of St. Charles, now called Denver. As a reward to the Indians, he supposedly named streets after his “wives” Wewatta, Wazee, and Champa. McGaa also named Glenarm Street after his alleged family castle and McGaa Street to honor himself. Although McGaa at one time owned a Ferry on the Platte, was a 1958 stockholder in St. Charles City, and in whose cabin in Auraria the Denver City Town Company was formed Nov 22, 1858, and subsequently owned several Denver lots, he was not regarded highly by the more refined Denver pioneers. According to Colorado historian, professor, and author Tom Noel, “This town founder became an embarrassment to respectable pioneers. In 1866, the Denver City Council renamed McGaa Street as Holladay Street (changed to Market Street in 1880), in honor of the man who brought the Holladay Stage line to town. McGaa, the unworthy tosspot, was banished from the ranks of the founding fathers. His presence”and that of his half-Indian wife and children”in the Denver Pantheon of pioneer heroes might sully the reputations of other noble white male founders, whom future generations were expected to celebrate.” McGaa died a year after the sanitation efforts of the City Council. The following notice from the December 16, 1867 Rocky Mountain News was kind but not detailed: “Died, in this city, yesterday, in the morning, Dec 15, William W. McGaa, better known as “Jack Jones,” in his 45th year. The deceased had been a resident of the Rocky Mountain regions about 28 years, the companion of Beckwourth, Bridger and other mountaineers of note. He was a man of more than ordinary intelligence, and a very fair education. Generous to a fault, and a steadfast friend. His remains were buried yesterday evening in Mt. Prospect Cemetery, followed by a few of the old friends who first knew him here in the spring of 1859.” “Peace to his Ashes.” 140 years after his passing, the imaginative storyteller McGaa would not have recognized the Confluence in his wildest dreams. Through a series of recent face-lifts and major redevelopments, the low-lying Confluence Park and surrounds have taken on a high seat among Denver”s most beautiful and vibrant neighborhoods. Located off 15th Street bridge between Platte Street and Little Raven (named in 1995 after the friendly Arapahoe chief who welcomed- and was subsequently displaced by -the white pioneers) you can find wonderful panoramic views of Denver and nice seating for lunch or picnic. Access the park by way of enjoyable bike paths and pedestrian walk-ways. There is a beach for swimming and a great kayaking run (also can use inner tubes). Confluence Kayaks, 1615 Platte Street, Denver, CO 80202 ( 303-433-3676) can teach you kayaking, provide gear, and over tours. They also rent bikes ” and telemark ski gear in the winter months. Gear also available at the REI Flagship store (located behind My Brothers Bar at 15th & Platte). Every Saturday from June 9th through August 11th, from 10:00am to 2:00pm, cityWILD (303.227.6863; http://citywild.org) offers free river rafting rides ( Ages: 8 and up) on the South Platte River through the rapids at Confluence Park/Shoemaker Plaza in front of the REI Flagship store, just upstream from the 15th Street bridge. No reservations are required; participants/parents will only need to sign a waiver. Guides, equipment, and instruction are provided. If young kids ” infants to 8- are in the mix when you are planning your trip down to confluence park you might check out The Children”s Museum, 2121 Children’s Museum Drive, Denver, CO 80211( 303.433.7444). From I-25, take the 23rd Avenue exit, number 211. Once on 23rd Avenue, head east toward downtown then take the first right on Children”s Museum Drive and follow the curved road to the Museum. Cost: Free to $7.50. Parking is usually free except on special occasions (call ahead). Next to the Children”s Museum is the Downtown Aquarium, 700 Water Street (303-561-4450) www.aquariumrestaurants.com, where there are loads of fun things to do here for all ages. Formerly the nonprofit Colorado’s Ocean Journey, it”s now owned and operated by Landry’s Seafood Restaurants. The facility includes the Aquarium Restaurant, where guests are seated around a 150,000 gallon aquarium full of fish from sharks to stingrays (they are feed often to avoid public hunger attacks). The restaurant has good food and is moderately priced. Admission to the restaurant is free ” however, if you want to tour the facility exhibits it can become a little pricey if you have a big group Admission fees: Adults $13.75; Seniors(65+) $12.95; Children (4-12) $8.25; 3 and Under Free. Prices go down after 6pm. The facility has a number of special group rental offerings ” overnight birthday parties for kids, weddings, even diving with the sharks (again, they should be well fed prior). Go online or call for the list of offerings. Outside the Aquarium are bicycle rentals built for 2 ” 6 people. During the summer there is a reptile petting area that most kids can enjoy for $2. The volunteers who work there actually own and live with these pet snakes, turtles and iguanas. When we took or 3 year-old there we were really impressed on how well the staff worked with the small children (a few of their mothers were freaked-out beyond help). Parking around the Aquarium is a little complicated. Although not advertised, we have taken advantage of the plenty full free parking next door at the Children”s Museum. Official Aquarium parking across the street is $6.00, but is free after six for dinners. Street meters in front are for a maximum of 2 hours. Your call. For more food, fun, and shopping head to 15th & Platte (from the Aquarium just continue along Water Street which becomes Platte Street around 15th). My Bother”s Bar (303-455-9991), House of Commons, English Tea Room (303-455-4832), Paris On The Platte (303-455-2451), Vitamin Cottage. Information (303-455-3172) are just a few eat in-or-out offerings in walking distance of each other and Confluence Park. Continue to celebrate views, water, greenery, art, and movement by walking or biking across from the Confluence to Commons Park, or enjoy Centennial Flower Gardens, patterned after the Gardens of Versailles, located on 1100 Little Raven adjacent to Elitch Gardens amusement park (A combination restroom and maintenance office is located on the site for visitor”s convenience). One last word on parking ” read the signs. There is still some free parking on Platte Street between 17th and 19th (also up 19th toward the free Skate Park). But, meters can go up over night ” so read the signs. Sources include Thomas J. Noel/Denvergoc.org; Denver Library.org/Research; wikipedia.org; geocities.com (by Pat McCullough, The Celtic Connection Aug 07 issue “Travel Here… Travel There” column)

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