A Trip to Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

President’s Day weekend didn’t quite come together as we had hoped, and we found ourselves ‘stuck’ in Denver on a day off. Last year (link) we hit a home run with a four day trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota. After some fits and starts, bit became apparent that no such road trips were in the cards this time around.

What to do, then?

My weekend long run was checked off the list (a solid 22.5 miler), and the family was anxious to get out of the house for the day. No dog-sitter meant that our travel radius needed to be small enough to keep us to a six hour time away.

We decided to go check out the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. That name is quite a mouthful, most people shorten it to RMA or ‘the Arsenal’. The place has an interesting background. (Link….) Chemical weapons were manufactured there decades ago.

It is within spitting distance of the city and serves as an oasis of sorts for all kinds of animals. I can’t help thinking this is how the whole area must have looked a couple of hundred years ago.

I had been there before, and was excited to show the rest of the family around. It served as the perfect destination for the time we had to work with. There is a very nice visitor’s center on-site, but it was closed for the holiday. Thankfully, the rest of the park was open.

Right off the bat we spotted a juvenile bald eagle hanging out in a prairie dog colony, along with a pretty rough looking coyote.

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Next up was the bison enclosure. It is a very large area that you can drive through – as long as you stay in your car…

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After seeing the bison it was time to get out for a walk and stretch the legs a bit. There are several miles of hiking trails in the area that lend themselves very well to combinations of longer or shorter duration hikes. It is very easy to find that Goldilocks just-right length.

We saw a few deer, but not much else in the way of wildlife on our walk. We did go over this cool floating walkway that served as an excellent backdrop for some portrait practice with my daughters. They are growing up so fast! It is nice to be able to capture a moment in time like this once in a while.

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From there is was on to prairie dog town, where the little guys were actively doing the move we have nicknamed – “popcorn”. They will crouch low to the ground before bursting fully-extended towards the sky. Then repeating the process over and over again.

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My daughter caught me in a typical pose when I am photographing animals. I like to get as low to the ground as possible. Often lying still for very long stretches. At first, the animals don’t like it, but eventually they get curious and peek out to see what’s up.

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A bit later on, my family discovered this bizarre scene of a dead owl tangled in a tree. First time I have seen anything like that.

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After driving a little further, we came upon a frozen lake with a lot of activity. Some hawks swirled far over our heads and took turns diving at each other. Several bald eagles (eight total) congregated on the opposite side of the lake. Someone mentioned they thought some coyotes had made a kill near that spot.

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We headed for home after watching the eagles for a while, making it back to our place right at the six hour mark. It was a perfect little getaway.

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Photo Credit: My Wife

Posted on March 10, 2014, in photography. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Great pics, as always. Was thinking of you on Sunday as I was jogging/walking (too sick to run) in Waterton Canyon. As you’re headed up canyon and hit the first “Dip” sign, there’s a small narrow canyon off to the right. Walk up there through the scrub (about .25 mile) and there’s a cool box canyon with a small spring dripping water down a sheer cliff face into a small pool at the bottom. There’s a big dead tree snag that forms an arch just before the spring. Got to be some photo opps there.

    • Thanks, Jim. Sorry you have been sick. I know the dip you are describing, but have never ventured up that side canyon. I will definitely check it out. Thanks for the tip!

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