Coronavirus (COVID-19) Notice
Although most refuge lands and outdoor spaces have remained open for the public to enjoy, we ask that you recreate responsibly.

  • Check alerts and local conditions on this website and call ahead for current information. Operations vary based on local public health conditions.
  • Consistent with CDC recommendations, all visitors (age 2 and older), who are fully vaccinated are required to wear a mask inside of federal buildings in areas of substantial or high community transmission.. All visitors who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces.
  • Most importantly, stay home if you feel sick and continue to watch for symptoms of COVID-19 and follow CDC guidance on how to protect yourself and others.


  • Colorado Junior Duck Stamp BOS 2016

    Colorado Jr. Duck Stamp Program soars!

    K-12 students, submit your artwork up until the mid-March deadline! Here is the 2016 Best of Show painted by Marina Boiko.

    Junior Duck Stamp Program

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    Diversity thrives at Arapaho ~

    See songbirds,waterfowl,raptors,large and small mammals,and many types of plant life on the Refuge.

    Wildlife & Habitat

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    Staff work in support of their mission ~

    Working to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

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    Habitat management is essential!

    Prescribed burning is just one of several tools used for habitat management on Arapaho. Here is a burn that took place during a wet May.

    Learn More

Important things to know

Antler shed hunting/collecting not permitted on refuge

Antler shed hunting/collecting is not allowed on Arapaho NWR. Code of Federal Regulations Title 50 Part 27 Section 61 (50 CFR 27.61) prohibits the unauthorized removal of any public property, including natural objects from any national wildlife refuge. Because shed antlers are an important source of nutrients to various other animals, removal of antlers does not benefit refuge resources.

Road & Water Conditions

Low April Illinois River

Seasonal weather patterns and the amount and type of precipitation that occur dictate road closures on the Refuge. These influences will change from year to year. The staff attempts to keep as much public access open as possible, but road maintenance on the Refuge is balanced with other resource priorities. Roads are also closed to minimize winter disturbance of elk, which frequent the Refuge October through March. First snowfall usually occurs in late October and will continue periodically through mid-May. Late May through September are the best months for public access on the Refuge. Generally, all refuge roads, except for the main Entrance Road from State Highway 125, will be closed from December through mid-May due to winter snowfall. During the months of May and April drifted snow and mud conditions determine how quickly roads can be re-opened, with drier years allowing for earlier access. It is a good idea to call ahead to check on the road conditions before making a trip to the Refuge during the spring and fall seasons. Refuge ponds are filled by water diverting from the Illinois River to flow through a system of ditches. Beginning in April the staff does its best to disperse the water in order to fill as many ponds as possible for the returning waterfowl and shorebirds. Their ability to do so depends on the level of the water flowing in the river. This is a direct result of the amount of snowfall over the winter months, the amount of springtime precipitation and the intensity of the warming spring temperatures. The majority of the river water at this time is due to the runoff flowing down from the mountains. For instance, a snowy winter accompanied by a colder spring will delay the spring runoff whereas a winter with average snowfall in combination with a warm spring may cause the river to run over its banks for a period of time. Wetland recharge is also affected by the Refuge's legal priority to access the river's water in accordance with local water right entitlements. These may be initiated by other river users during low precipitation years and can delay the Refuge's permission to divert the river water. Also, the constant need to maintain the ditch system is another impact on the ability to get water to the ponds. During a normal year, ponds are full from May until the water level drops in late summer. Fall rains can recharge wetlands for the fall migration.

Check on the weather at

A welcome flash of blue that heralds each spring like clockwork at this high altitude Refuge!


Each year the mountain bluebirds return to North Park for milder weather and better feeding grounds. They spend winters as far south as central Mexico. Their return is always a welcome clue that spring weather is on the way! Below is a link with information that can help you attract bluebirds and other species to your backyard.

USFWS Backyard Birding

Limited Draw Elk Hunt

Bull Elk

Questions about licensing or the draw for this special elk hunt should be addressed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Steamboat Springs, Colorado at 970-870-2197. BASIC INFORMATION: There is a Limited Draw Elk hunt in Units B and C during Colorado State Elk seasons 1 through 4. Selection preference is given to youth and disabled hunters. Hunters must possess a Unit 17 or 171 tag in addition to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife selection letter for Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge. Selected hunters are required to attend a pre-hunt meeting at the Refuge prior to participating in the hunt.

Auto Tour Favorites!

Celebrities of the Auto Tour


From May to September when the ponds are filled these popular water birds can be easily observed: pintails, ruddy ducks, American avocet, and Wilson's phalarope!

Learn about birds found on Arapaho NWR

About the Complex

Arapaho NWR Complex

Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge is managed as part of the Arapaho NWR Complex.

Read more about the complex
About the NWRS

National Wildlife Refuge System


The National Wildlife Refuge System, within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, manages a national network of lands and waters set aside to conserve America's fish, wildlife, and plants.

Learn more about the NWRS