Near the confluence of Fall River and The Big Thompson River was once the location of the summertime fun and nightlife for Estes Park, CO., in the form of The Riverside Dance Hall and Amusement Park.
Built in 1922 – 1923 by Ted Jelsema and Frank Bond, on land acquired from Estes Park businessman, Cornelius H. Bond, The Riverside Dance Hall and Amusement Park started with a 160-by-60 wooden pavilion featuring a lobby, a large stone fireplace, ice cream parlor, and lunch-time meals, and a large booth-lined dance hall. On the east side of the facility was a steam-heated swimming pool. On the south end was a sand beach. For those concerned a boiler kept the water from Fall River at about eighty-four degrees.
Visitors to the dance hall and amusement park who did not want to swim could choose to visit a bowling alley and shooting gallery.
The main entrance to the complex was on Elkhorn Avenue, next to The Josephine Hotel by way of a six-foot-wide log bridge. On the other side of the river was a parking lot for vehicles.
The Riverside Dance Hall and Amusement Park opened for business on July 4, 9123, and quickly became a success and favorite among locals. Because he recognized the potential Jelsema bought out Frank Bond.
Each Wednesday night there were theme dances, and in 1933, following the repeal of prohibition Jelsema introduced The Dark Horse Inn, that featured wooden merry-go-round horses as bar stools for patrons.
Although Jelsema sold The Riverside Amusement complex in January 1946 it remains in business well into the 1950s. The swimming pool was converted to a roller skating rink, and from 1958 until 1969 The Dark Horse Theater presented theatrics on a stage built over the pool.
The Riverside Amusement complex came to a close in October 1969. The town of Estes Park, in need of parking space, acquired the property. On January 31, 1970 the last dance was held. The Riverside Amusement Park and The Dark Horse Tavern passed into history.