Barr Lake State Park and Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

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Well, I’m trying to take advantage of Denver’s wonderful weather while I can…it has been magnificent, and it is supposed to be a cold winter so I’m bracing for the bad weather some time soon.  So far, the mountain have gotten all the snow, and Denver has mostly been blessed with sunny skies!

I revisited the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.  I wanted to get some more pictures of bucks.  I was a little late to the party though, only arriving just before 8 a.m.  I think there would have been more activity at 7 a.m.  I certainly was not out of luck!  In fact, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is a very lucky place for me…they have committed to carry my notecards!  Now I am in two local stores…the other is the Park Hill Community Bookstore.  So I am happy about that!

As I drove toward the visitor center today, it was blocked by a temporary, white tent leftover from an event from the previous day.  The refuge crushed 6 tons of ivory that has been confiscated over the last 25 years from illegal importation into the USA.  In fact, the refuge has two repositories…one for anything from Cowboy boots to ivory illegally carried into the country and the other for bald eagles that may have been hit by a car while feasting on road kill or that have died from natural causes.  Indian tribes then request a whole bald eagle or certain feathers for their ceremonies from the refuge.  It can take 9 months to 3 years to provide the tribes with perfect feathers or birds.  What shocking to me was to find that either one of these repositories existed, and that these Colorado based repositories only a few miles from my house service the entire country!

Back to my mission for the day which was wildlife photography.  I drove around the refuge a while before I found my first deer.  I actually spotted two coyotes first!  Then I found a white tail buck…they are elusive and he quickly trotted off into the distance.  The deer were not “hanging out” where they were supposed to (according to the tour I took last week)!  I finally drove toward the end of the road where I was prepared to turn around when I spotted a doe.  I learned from the guide last week, that when there is a doe, there should be a buck nearby during mating season.  I kept my eyes open, but spotted nothing…just a single doe strutting through the field.  Suddenly, she spooked and hopped forward as a coyote trotted off behind a tree.  She was leaping right toward me, when she settled and turned to the left to cross the road.

I moved my car onto the road from the parking area to get a better shot.  After she cross the road, and dipped into a lower terrain where the brush interferred with any good shots, I started to leave when I noticed she was approaching a buck!  The buck licked his snout, raised his head and puffed his neck, but she seemed to be a tease.  She quickly became disinterested as he chased her along plains.  He continued to court her while another photographer joined me and noticed another buck on the other side of the road…was there going to be a fight?  We were waiting!  As we waited in anticipation, another buck appeared!  Unfortunately, they all appeared disinterested in one another, so we moved on.

As I was returning toward the exit, I passed by a white tail buck sipping some water from the creek.  He didn’t stick around long.  Despite being more aggressive toward other deer, the white tail is much more shy toward humans than the mule deer that were happy to let me wait around!

After visiting Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, I drove north to Brighton to check out Barr Lake State Park.  This park has a nature center, and I thought they might like my cards.  The buying manager wasn’t there, but the park ranger at the desk mentioned they were looking for new products, so maybe I will have some more luck…that would be good!

In the meantime, I decided to check out the park.  It is a somewhat difficult park to get around unless you plan to hike!  There are only two parking areas, otherwise, to get around the lake, it requires a long 8.8 mile walk!  That was not on my list of things to do today…I was in the mindset of a 4 mile hike.  Not far from the nature center is a boardwalk trail that follows along the edge of Barr Lake beneath the cottonwoods and offers a spectacular view of the lake and snow-capped mountains beyond.

While I tried in earnest to snap a photo of a black capped chickadee, the birds eluded me as they flitted from branch to branch before I could get my camera focus.  I didn’t even notice the two doe resting peacefully to my right.  One looked almost dead, while the other kept an eye on me while I clicked away.  The boardwalk took me within 6 feet of them.  They raised to their foot as I stood above their heads, but curiously watched me through the tree branches until a little kiddo came running down the boardwalk.  They hopped from their cover, beneath the boardwalk and into a more open area to do their business!  I watched them chomp on dry leaves for a while before I finally decided to move on.

The lake is home to a few more side trails that spur from the main loop.  I took them all.  I walked a pier to a gazebo that poked out into the lake where all types of ducks and waterbirds enjoyed their day floating, quacking, and diving for food.  I have never seen such a variety of ducks in one place.  I’m not sure how many species of ducks exist, but I wouldn’t be surprised if every species swam and flew around Barr Lake.  Since the early 1900’s, Barr Lake has been known as a premier bird-watching area with approximately 350 species of birds having been spotted.

It is also home to a bald eagle rookery!  So, after snapping some mediocre photos of the ducks (I just don’t have a big enough lens), I moved on to the rookery.  I spotted three bald eagles!!  One was mature, one immature, and the other I didn’t get a good enough view.  My pictures of the bald eagles are from a mile away too, but it was still fun, and I got at least a 4 mile walk in while on my wildlife photo hunt for the day!  Both Barr Lake State Park and Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge were good to me on this sunny, 60 degree day.  ETB


For notecards and key chains, visit My Shop on this website.

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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