Spring on the High Plains – Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR

After a very busy few days (attending a talk, taping a podcast late into Friday, and volunteering all day for a hiker event Saturday),  I was quite tired on Sunday.

Add in the fact of an unusually warm March day. Which meant the foothills and the high country would be a sloppy mess.

A perfect day to spend some time with the someone and take it easy.

The chosen place was the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.

Essentially a fifteen-thousand acre riparian and short grass prairie habitat in the Denver metro area.

I noticed the sign on the way to and from the Denver airport over the past couple of years and it is a place my someone and I have wanted to check out.

The history of the area is interesting. In brief, over two-hundred homesteads were in this area at one point. Between the Dust Bowl and the military needs in the opening days of World War Two, the families who homestead left the area. (or were, ah, “invited” to leave by the government ) .

Only one of these 200 homesteads are left.

A manufacturing plant for chemical weapons and later pesticides was created.

By the 1980s, bald eagles and other birds were found. Clean up commenced and by the 1990s a national wildlife refuge was established.  And in 2007, a herd of bison was introduced.

What we have now is an area that is recovering (or even recovered in many parts) that serves as an oasis in the increasingly crowded and congested Front Range Urban Corridor.  A place to walk some gentle trails, see wildlife , have a picnic by the water and perhaps a little fishing.  And, of course, see the majesty of the bison in their original habitat.  And the price? Free.

With plans to expand the bison habitat to 12,000 acres and a herd of 200, this area will especially be impressive.

Behind the bison enclosure. For obvious reasons, the fence can not be approached.

Is the area wilderness? No.  But not every beautiful and inspiring place has to be wilderness.  It is an area that people can enjoy so close to home.  A place that may inspire the next generation of wilderness champions that we will need to help preserve and protect the land.

Canadian goose

It is an area we need. An area that will become increasingly important in this crowded area. And it is wonderful.

If you have a day where something close by and accessible is desired, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is well worth checking out.

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9 years ago

I love National wildlife refuges. It was Balcones Canyonlands national wildlife refuge (in the Austin, TX area) that convinced me to try backpacking. I now just finished my first backpacking trip in the Organ mountains in New Mexico, and I am hooked! NWRs are underrated treasures in our system of public lands.