Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
Once a toxic piece of land, now a flourishing haven for wildlife
Get ThereThe refuge is just 10 minutes northeast of Denver. Need directions? Find out more.
What You’ll FindNinety miles of nature trails through shortgrass prairie habitat, burrowing owls, prairie dogs, wild bison and mule deer. In late winter, bald eagles begin to nest; in spring, Swainson’s Hawks end their 6,000-mile journey from Argentina, and burrowing owls inhabit abandoned prairie dog homes. The refuge also has examples of archaeological sites and historic homes.
Make Sure YouJoin a wildlife viewing or photography tour, or get your little ones involved in the many kids’ educational activities. Wildlife sightings vary by season, so repeat visits are a must! Walk or hike on the refuge’s 90 miles of trails, or try your hand at fishing.
Try ThisCatch and release fishing season starts on April 14 and continues until October 14. Game fish include largemouth bass, channel catfish, white and black crappie, lunker northern pike, bluegill and yellow perch. Visitor tours will take you to view and photograph all the wildlife. Wildlife sights vary by season, so repeat visits are a must!
This refuge may provide one of the finest conservation success stories in history. The land was once home to the Plains Indians, who followed large herds of native bison. Early settlers farmed the land and raised cattle, but during World War II, the U.S. Army transformed the area into a chemical weapons manufacturing facility called the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. In the early 1980s, extensive environmental cleanup began, followed by an almost immediate influx of wildlife. Later, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service introduced a herd of wild bison (from Montana) to once again inhabit the refuge.
All you really need is a day pack, some good hiking or walking shoes and camera—unless you’re planning on fishing, in which case you’ll need your fishing gear. Bring appropriate sun coverage, especially in summer, as shade can be scarce.
View this Denver Itinerary to learn about many of the federal lands, recreation areas, national parks, and historical and cultural sites in the Denver area.
Read more about these Denver-area spots:
- Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
- Bear Creek Lake
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- White River National Forest