Wildlife abounds in the San Luis Valley. Enjoy birding, wildlife photography, wildlife observation and nature study at the following destinations in the SLV. Please remember to observe wildlife from a distance that they consider safe.
Alamosa, Monte Vista and Baca National Wildlife Refuges
Hike the trails at one of the three national wildlife refuges and you are sure to be treated to encounters with wildlife. The San Luis Valley’s three national wildlife refuges provide amazing opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation. The refuges provide habitat for wildlife and waterfowl including songbirds, mallards, pintails, Canada geese, sandhill cranes, killdeer, egrets, herons, raptors, deer, elk, beaver and coyotes. The refuges seek to conserve the natural habitat of these local creatures while providing opportunities for hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, environmental education and interpretation. www.fws.gov/alamosa/ (719) 589-4705
Alamosa River Canyon
Watch for bighorn sheep between the Cat Creek turnoff and the mouth of the Alamosa Canyon. Deer and elk are found in the area year-round.
Bats at the Orient Mine
During the summer the Orient Mine is home to a colony of 250,000 Mexican Freetailed bats and the outflight at dusk is thrilling to view. From the Valley View Hot Springs, you can hike out to the Orient Mine. The mine operated as Colorado’s largest iron mine from the 1880s to 1932. While walking to the home of the bat colony, visitors will see foundations at the old Orient town site and mine workings. For more information, click here.
A variety of waterfowl and other water birds can be seen nesting in the spring and summer at this wetland complex. There is an accessible wildlife viewing site. The wetlands may be closed at certain times of the year during sensitive nesting periods. For more information, click here.
Brown Lakes State Wildlife Area
Located west of Creede, this is a 160-acre lake and wetland wildlife area. The primary use of the lake is for fishing. There are wetlands at the upper ends of each lake that provide nesting habitat for waterfowl. Moose may also be spotted in the willows. Other common wildlife sightings include beaver, deer, elk, prairie dogs, and marmots. For more information, click here.
Coller State Wildlife Area
In Novembers and December, this SWA north of South Fork on Hwy. 149 is a good place to watch herds of elk. The Rio Grande flows through the property and offers more than three miles of Gold Medal quality trout fishing. For more information on birding at Coller SWA, click here.
Hot Creek State Wildlife Area
This remote state wildlife area has an enormous spring system with extensive marshy areas that make for great birding. Recreational activities at Hot Creek SWA include fishing, hunting and wildlife observation. The area is closed Dec 1 to April 30. For more information, click here.
La Jara Creek State Wildlife Area
In the summer coyotes, marmots, deer, rabbits, hawks and eagles can be viewed at this SWA. In the winter keep an eye out for deer, elk and bighorn sheep. For information on La Jara Creek SWA and other wildlife areas in Conejos County, check out http://www.sangres.com/stateco/conejos.htm#lajara
Trujillo Meadows Reservoir
Located near the summit of Cumbres Pass, the reservoir boasts high altitude scenery and is a good spot for fishing, camping and wildlife observation. http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/riogrande/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=29630&actid=29
Shriver-Wright and Rio Grande State Wildlife Areas
The 1,213-acre wetland complex along the Rio Grande provides essential habitat for many bird species. The SWA’s trail systems facilitate exploration and wildlife observation. At Shriver-Wright SWA a beautiful adobe viewing blind, trails and interpretive signage provides for a unique nature experience. For more information, click here.
San Luis Valley Alligator Farm
Famous for its high-altitude reptiles, the warm artesian spring water not only creates ponds and wetlands for gators, but also provides outstanding habitat for many waterbirds and waterfowl. Admission charged. Coloradogators.com
San Luis State Park & Wildlife Area
San Luis State Park is a popular place for wildlife observation and water sports in the San Luis Valley. The area has a campground, picnic facilities and wonderful wildlife trails and blinds. Elk, songbirds, coyotes, kangaroo rats and rabbits are common sights here. The area is also an excellent spot for fishing and boating, with spectacular views of Mt. Blanca and the Great Sand Dunes National Monument. Water sports activities include water-skiing, motor boating, sailing, and windsurfing. For more information, click here.
Zapata Ranch Bison Tours
A Nature Conservancy preserve, the Zapata Ranch is home to a 2,000 head bison herd. The ranch’s plentiful meadows irrigated by artesian wells, lakes, snow run-off, and a seasonal creek known as Sand Creek create a home rich in forage for our resident herd.
For those interested in learning more about our bison herd, the ranch offers Bison Tours. A knowledgeable staff member will guide you through the 50,000 acre portion of the ranch known as the Medano, with the aim of getting you up close to our herd of 2,000 North American Plains bison. To make reservations and for information on pricing and directions call 719.378.2356 x112. www.zranch.org