Did you know that we live right next door to one of the largest urban refuges in the entire country? Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, located just northeast of Denver, covers 15,000 acres and is managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
In its early history, when the Plains Indians no longer hunted bison, the land was used for growing crops and raising cattle. The area became a chemical weapons manufacturing facility during World War II, and continued to be used after the war to produce agricultural chemicals and cold war weapons. Environmental cleanup began in the early 1980’s. Interestingly, a roost of bald eagles was discovered, and then efforts were undertaken to declare the area a national wildlife refuge, which occurred in 1991.
Open year round, there are over 10 miles of trails. In addition to hiking, you can cross country ski and snowshoe in the wintertime. The trails include grassland, wetland and woodland trails. The area is home to 330 species of wildlife, including bison, black-footed ferrets, deer and coyotes (and prairie dogs seemingly everywhere)! The area is also home to an abundance of birds, some migratory, but many present year around, including Red-tailed Hawks and Bald Eagles.
You can also take your car on an 11 mile Wildlife Drive. All drivers move in one direction, at about 30 MPH. Part of this drive is through the bison area; you are required to remain in your car in this section of the refuge.
If you haven’t ever been to Rocky Mountain Arsenal before, you may be surprised at this expansive wildlife refuge so close to urban Denver.