American Bison Photographed By Sara Turbyfill At Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge In Denver, Colorado.

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge: Wildlife Watching Near Denver

Wildlife Watching at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is located in Commerce City, about 30 minutes from downtown Denver. Individuals visit the refuge to enjoy various outdoor activities, like archery, fishing, and hiking. However, the refuge is most famous for its abundance of wildlife.

Common residents of the refuge include American bison, black-footed ferrets, black-tailed prairie dogs, coyotes, and mule deer. In fact, more than 300 species of wildlife live throughout the refuge. As a result, birdwatchers and wildlife lovers visit the refuge to observe the unique wildlife found within.

Mule deer photographed by Sara Turbyfill in Commerce City, CO.

Observe Bison, Black-Tailed Prairie Dogs, and Coyotes on the Wildlife Drive

The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge provides a unique opportunity for visitors to get up close to Colorado wildlife. There are numerous places to see wildlife throughout the park, however, the wildlife drive auto tour is by far the best. The auto tour is an 11-mile paved road that winds through the refuge. To protect individuals and animals, visitors are not permitted to exit their vehicles while driving the auto tour loop.

After passing through the cattle guard, visitors can expect to see American bison in various areas for the remainder of the tour. The bison herd moves to different pastures, depending on the season and time of day. If you visit the refuge at dusk, you might be lucky enough to observe the herd of bison crossing the road. This is an experience that you can’t miss!

Bison Photographed By Sara Turbyfill At Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR.
American bison photographed by Sara Turbyfill at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.

In addition to bison, visitors can see black-tailed prairie dogs, mountain cottontail, and mule deer throughout the auto tour. These species are common residents at the refuge and are active throughout the day.

Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Photographed By Sara Turbyfill Near Denver, Colorado.
Black-tailed prairie dog photographed by Sara Turbyfill near Denver, Colorado.

Although sightings are less common, coyotes also tend to hang out along the wildlife drive. Like most nocturnal mammals, the best time to observe coyotes is early in the morning or right before dusk. Coyotes are commonly spotted past the tiny bunker, which is located near the prairie dog town.

Coyote Photographed By Sara Turbyfill Near Denver, Colorado.
Coyote photographed by Sara Turbyfill at Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR.

Birdwatching at Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR

Nearly 300 species of birds reside at the refuge, which makes it a great birdwatching destination. A few common residents include bald eagles, burrowing owls, northern harriers, and western meadowlarks.

Swainsons Hawk Photographed By Sara Turbyfill In Commerce City, Colorado.
Swainson’s hawk photographed by Sara Turbyfill in Colorado.

Lake Ladora is one of the prime birding spots at the park. The trails surrounding the lake give birdwatchers the opportunity to see waterfowl near the shore. Here, you can observe common goldeneyes and mallards swimming in the lake.

In addition to Lake Ladora, you can spot songbirds and falcons throughout the rest of the refuge. The wildlife auto tour loop is an excellent place to observe these birds. Black-billed magpies, red-winged blackbirds, and Ferruginous hawks are often spotted along the auto tour.

Red-Winged Blackbird Photographed By Sara Turbyfill At Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR.
Red-winged blackbird photographed by Sara Turbyfill in Commerce City, Colorado.

Visit Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

In conclusion, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is an outstanding place for wildlife photography and birdwatching. Bison, coyotes, mule deer, and red-winged blackbirds are just a few of the species of wildlife that reside within the park.

Since there is no entrance fee, visitors can enjoy a handful of activities for free! The refuge is open every day from sunrise to sunset. For more information, check out the resources provided below.

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