About the Refuge

Baca playa landscape with twin bolts Joe Zinn

The 92,500 acre Baca Refuge is located in the northeastern part of the San Luis Valley. The Refuge has a diverse combination of shrublands, grasslands, wet meadows, playa wetlands, and riparian corridors. This Refuge was set aside not only as an additional haven for migratory birds and resident wildlife, but also for its importance in a broader conservation effort to protect the wildlife, habitat, and water of the northern San Luis Valley. The Refuge also contains the rich archeological telling of over 12,000 years of use by humans, including the extensive history of the famed Baca Grant Ranch. 


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 the Valley – the Sangre de Christo to the east, the San Juan to the west, and the Saguache to the north. At sunset, the Sangre de Christo take on a blood red glow which inspired the Spanish explorers to name them “Blood of Christ.”

The surrounding mountains feed the arid valley with precious surface water and replenish an expansive 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. 


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.

About the San Luis Valley Refuge Complex

The San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuges – Alamosa, Baca, and Monte Vista – are areas set aside for migratory birds and resident wildlife. Monte Vista Refuge was established in 1952 as a place for waterfowl and other wildlife in the Valley. Alamosa Refuge was established in 1962 as another haven for migratory birds and other wildlife. In 1979, the Refuges were combined administratively into the Alamosa-Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge Complex. In 2003, an area to the north became Baca Refuge. While Baca Refuge is not currently open to the public, these refuges are now managed as part of the San Luis Valley Refuges Complex. 

The 12,026 acre Alamosa Refuge include wetland areas, riparian corridors, wet meadows, and river oxbows. The wetland and river habitats provide a wildlife oasis in this dry region. These habitats support a variety of wildlife, including songbirds, water birds, raptors, deer, beavers, coyotes, and more.   

The artificially created wetlands on Monte Vista’s 14,804 acres are intensively managed to provide habitat for a wide variety of waterfowl and other water birds. Mallards, pintails, teal, and Canada geese are common, as are American avocets, killdeer, white-faced ibis, egrets, and herons. Irrigation canals and wells provide precious water to maintain this important wetland habitat.