Alamosa/Monte Vista/Baca National Wildlife Refuge Complex
Mountain-Prairie Region
Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge
Insuring habitat integrity

Monte Vista NWR was established by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission in 1953 to provide a much needed habitat for wildlife, particularly waterfowl, in the San Luis Valley.

Refuge farm field with sprinkler in summer

Cultivate small grain fields provide feeding habitat for Sandhill Cranes and waterfowl

Mallard Duck brood of 10

Monte Vista NWR has some of the most productive duck production areas in North America


Water is intensively managed on Monte Vista NWR. Using numerous dikes and other water control structures a patchwork pf diverse wetland habitats ranging from shallow wet meadows to open water. Artesian wells, pumped wells and irrigation canals, some dating to the "ditch boom" of the 1880's, supply water. Many other management tools, including mowing, grazing, prescribed burning and farming are also used to ensure that refuge lands continue to provide food, cover and nesting habitat for waterfowl and other water birds.

The refuge is a major stopover for migrating greater sandhill cranes moving between their wintering area around Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico and breeding grounds in the northern United States and southern Canada. Up to 20,000 cranes pass through in the spring and again in the fall. Three remaining endangered whooping cranes from a failed attempt to establish a wild migratory population in the 1980's can be seen migrating with their foster species, the sandhill crane.

Herd of elk on Monte Vista Refuge

Elk are often seen on Monte Vista NWR in the fall and winter
Photo: Brian DeVries

Monte Vista wetlands in Spring

Spring wetland scene at Monte Vista NWR


Beginning in the l980's, a herd of elk began using the refuge. At present, several hundred elk may be seen on the refuge seeking winter food and sanctuary from hunting pressure on nearby public lands.
In the San Luis Valley, desert and wetlands exist together side by side. Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge ensures wildlife a continuing place in this unique environment.
The refuge may be viewed along a 4 mile auto tour and from county roads open year round.

Last updated: October 5, 2012