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Cherry Creek State Park is an urban oasis. The park is reminiscent of Norman’s Sutton Urban Wilderness except for Cherry Creek being nearly 5,000 acres (lake included) larger. It’s a 4,200-acre forested park with an 850-acre lake in the Denver metro. Drive straight from the chain stores and residential additions on Aurora’s East Hampden Avenue to a near-wilderness area in minutes.

It had been 95 degrees in Denver the day before I found this park and was 65 degrees with storms moving in that next morning while there. Bicyclists and hikers were the most prevalent people around. Flash flood warnings kept the lake mostly clear of watercraft. It was peaceful listening to the wind blowing cottonwood leaves on hiking trails that wind through the swampy areas.

The park has a model-aircraft airfield with a few folks there but nothing flying. The “Family Shooting Center” was busier, with the pop, pop, pop of small-arms target shooters.

A historical marker commemorated the Roman Catholic Church’s World Youth Day held there in 1993. Behind the sign is a big open meadow.

A 1950-era Corps of Engineers lake dam prevents flooding in Denver. Just west of the dam is I-225.

Admission is $9 per vehicle for a day pass. The park has paved motor-vehicle roads that go all around the lake, a wetland preserve and several different hiking trail start and end points.

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Doug Hill earned a double-major undergraduate degree in English and East Asian Studies from the University of Kansas and a master's in human relations from the University of Oklahoma. He's been a freelance journalist and photographer in central Oklahoma since 1997.