Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge’s mission is to provide food, cover, and breeding habitat for migratory birds and resident wildlife. The Refuge conserves and enhances the wetland and desert habitats found in the area to accomplish these goals. The 11,169 acre Refuge is located at the south end of the San Luis Valley, a high mountain basin in south-central Colorado. It’s one of three national wildlife refuges in the Valley that provide crucial feeding, resting, and breeding habitat for over 200 bird species and other wildlife.
The Valley, sitting at 7,800 feet, extends over 100 miles from north to south and 50 miles from east to west. Three mountain ranges surround it – the Sangre de Christo to the east, the San Juan to the west, and the Sawatch to the north. At sunset, the high peaks of the Sangre de Christo take on the blood red glow which inspired the Spanish explorers to name the range “Blood of Christ.”
The surrounding mountains feed the arid valley with precious surface water and replenish an underground reservoir. The mountain snow melt and artesian wells provide needed water to the agricultural community and to the rivers, creeks, and wetlands that thread across the valley floor.
Alamosa Refuge lies within the Rio Grande floodplain and consists of wet meadows, old river oxbows, riparian corridors, and dry uplands vegetated with greasewood and rabbitbrush and other drought tolerant plants. These diverse habitats support a multitude of songbirds, water birds, waterfowl, raptors, mule deer, beaver, and coyotes. The west side of the Refuge borders the Rio Grande, long considered the life blood of the San Luis Valley. Water from to Rio Grande and irrigation canals maintain these important habitats. Mallards, pintails, teal, and Canada geese are common, as are American avocets, killdeer, white-faced ibis, egrets, and herons.
Alamosa, Monte Vista, and Baca Refuges are managed as part of the San Luis Valley Refuges Complex. This Refuge is one of over 560 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System – a network of lands set aside and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service specifically for wildlife. The Refuge System is a living heritage, conserving wildlife and habitat for people today and generations to come.