By the early 20th century, Pueblo was a prosperous and powerful industrial city. The Arkansas’s  abundant water nourished irrigated farmlands in the lower valley, and provided water to city residents as well as to the city’s sprawling steel mills and vast rail yards. But in June 1921, torrential rains west and north of Pueblo caused catastrophic flooding on the Arkansas and Fountain Creek, destroying much of the downtown.

The course of the river was changed and subsequent flood control measures diverted the river from downtown. Seventy years later, Pueblo’s economy was weak and its historic downtown lacked investment and focus. The solution: bring Arkansas River water back to central downtown and create a safe, beautiful, pedestrian-friendly riverwalk. It was an expensive, audacious plan that took years to plan, design, construct, and refine.

The Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo (HARP) opened 18 years ago. It has grown and expanded since, activating downtown businesses and catalyzing downtown development. A dreary industrial wasteland has been transformed into a community gem, providing a safe, friendly environment for residents and visitors alike.

As its designers intended, HARP is seamlessly integrated into downtown Pueblo. Graceful bridges link its banks and multiple easy access points guide pedestrians into the extensive park/ promenade/Riverwalk and business district. You can stroll happily along the paved riverside paths, but you’ll be tempted to stop from time to time, as businesses like Brues Alehouse beckon.

Located in the renovated and repurposed former downtown police station, Brues has a riverside café, a bar/restaurant, a brewery, performance spaces, and even a hotel that was once the city jail.

You might also consider Angelo’s Pizza, Papa Joe’s Union Café, Bingo Burger, the B Street Café, Graham’s Grill, Nacho’s Restaurant, The Pantry, The Pass Key Restaurant, Tsunami Sushi, Magpie’s, or the Gold Dust Saloon. Some are directly linked to the Riverwalk, while others are a few steps away. They’re locally owned and operated—no suburban chains here!

There are events throughout the year including Boats, Bands & Brews and Rollin’ on the Riverwalk on July 4. The annual Chile and Frijoles Festival is September 21-23 on Union Avenue and the Riverwalk and is expected to bring in over 100,000 visitors to Pueblo.

The Riverwalk may soon add another vibrant business; a partnership that includes an iconic Denver preservationist, Dana Crawford. She’s putting together a deal aimed at transforming the vacant 1920s power station on HARP’s northern edge into a destination hotel and meeting center, using recycled Pullman cars as suites. Absent HARP, the beautiful old structures would probably have been pulled down. But HARP has transformed the area, demonstrating once more that water is life.

• Construction was inspired by the success of the San Antonio Riverwalk.
• Sandstone from the original riverbed was repurposed for urban design improvements.
• The Farley/Reilly Fountain required more than 17 tons of granite.
• Four nations have claimed ownership over the Arkansas River at the Riverwalk’s current location.
• For a contribution to the Veteran’s Bridge fund, names of honorably discharged or active service veterans can be engraved on the bridge.
• Pedal boat rentals and excursion boat and gondola rides are available.