Wildlife Viewing & Events (9/21/2023)
* Fall is upon us and the Refuge is gearing up for the changing of the season. Water conditions on the Refuge has fluctuated considerably throughout the summer season. Going from a very wet runoff to full on drought conditions by mid summer. Irrigation water is starting to be re-established throughout the Refuge and many areas are starting to fill up. The Rio Grande Nature Trail is once again open to the public to enjoy after it's seasonal closure for sensitive wildlife breeding and nesting.
* Currently, wildlife have been seen more frequent now during daylight hours, assumingly feeding heavily to prepare for the soon-to-be-here winter months. Sightings of porcupines, beavers, raccons, deer, and elk have been reported along the Wildlife Drive and Rio Grande Nature Trail. Sandhill Cranes have been heard calling from above, as these prehistoric birds migrate through the San Luis Valley on their journey south.
- The Refuge is open one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset for Refuge permitted activities.
- Directions to the Refuge and Visitor Center -- From the junction of Hwy 17 and 160, drive east on HWY 160 for about 3 miles to El Rancho Lane. Turn right onto El Rancho and drive about 3/4 of a mile to the Refuge HQ Office and Vistor Contact Station. The visitor contact station is open intermittently when staff and volunteers are available. For more information, call us at 719-589-4021 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Alamosa & Monte Vista Refuge General Brochure
- San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex | Facebook
- You can also contact Friends of the San Luis Valley Refuges for more information.
Know before you go:
When you plan for a trip to the Refuge, wear sturdy shoes for hiking and dress for the weather. Bringing water, food, binoculars, field guides, a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, and anything else that might make the outdoor experience more enjoyable.
Location and Contact Information
About the Refuge
Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1963 to provide food, cover, and breeding habitat for migratory birds and resident wildlife. The Refuge conserves and enhances the mixtures of wetland and desert habitats found in the area to accomplish these goals. Habitat management tools used on the Refuge include water and wetland management, weed control, haying, grazing, and prescribed fire.
The 12,026 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 San Luis 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 Saguache 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. The Refuge lies within the Rio Grande floodplain and consists of wet meadows, old river oxbows,corridors, and dry uplands. These diverse habitats support a multitude of songbirds, water birds, waterfowl, raptors, mule deer, beavers, and coyotes. The west side of the Refuge borders the Rio Grande, long considered to be the life blood of the San Luis Valley. Water from the Rio Grande maintain these important habitats.
About the Complex
Alamosa, Monte Vista, and Baca National Wildlife Refuges are areas set aside for migratory birds and resident wildlife. The Refuges are now combined administratively into the San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The 12,026 acre Alamosa Refuge includes 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 the 14,804 acre Monte Vista Refuge are intensively managed to provide habitat for a wide variety of waterfowl and other water birds. Mallards, pintails, teals, and Canada geese are common, as are American avocets, killdeers, white-faced ibises, egrets, and herons. Irrigation canals and wells provide precious water to maintain this important wetland habitat.
The 92,500 acre Baca Refuge is a highly diverse combination of shrublands, grasslands, wet meadows, playa wetlands, and riparian areas. This Refuge was set aside not only as another haven for migratory birds and resident wildlife, but also as an important piece in a broader conservation effort to protect the wildlife, habitat, and water of the north and east portions of the San Luis Valley. These three refuges of the San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex contribute to 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 National Wildlife Refuge System is a living heritage, conserving wildlife and habitat for people today and generations to come.
What We Do
U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex
9383 El Rancho Lane
Alamosa, Colorado 81101
For Immediate Release
March 2, 2023
Prescribed Burns Planned at Alamosa, Baca, and Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuges
Contact: Suzanne Beauchaine, (719) 589-4021 x1003, Suzanne_Beauchaine@fws.gov
Alamosa, CO – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be conducting prescribed burns this fall and next spring on the Alamosa, Baca, and Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuges to remove old, matted vegetation to improve wildlife habitat. Professional fire personnel from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Mid-Plains Fire Zone and State and Federal Partners will conduct the burns. The exact burn dates will depend on weather conditions and other prescription requirements. Target dates start mid-March but may extend through mid-April.
Smoke will be visible to adjacent neighbors, towns and highways during and for a few days following burning operations. Signs will be posted along the nearest major roads and all burns will be monitored until they are declared completely out.
Prescribed fire smoke may affect your health. For more information see https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/wood-smoke-and-health.
For up-to-date information, Like Us on our San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SanLuisValleyRefugeComplex or contact Alamosa and Monte Vista Refuge Manager Suzanne Beauchaine (719) 589-4021x 1003.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service.For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/. Connect with our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/USFWSMountainPrairie, follow our tweets at http://twitter.com/USFWSMtnPrairie, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsmtnprairie/.
– FWS –
Southwestern Willow Flycatcher
The southwestern willow flycatcher is a small, neo-tropical, migrating bird found in areas of the southwest United States and as far down as South America. Their primary habitat is dense thickets of trees and shrubs along corridors of rivers and streams, especially willow thickets. They typically breed and nest in the southwestern states of Arizona, California, New Mexico, and portions of southwestern Colorado. However, due to habitat loss and fragmentation from drought, stream channelization, and water diversions for agriculture and urban development, the population declined drastically. In 1995, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service listed the southwestern willow flycatcher as a federally endangered species and began recovery plan efforts. In 2002, the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher Recovery Plan was finalized, which paved the way for habitat restoration and critical habitat designation.
On Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge, the southwestern willow flycatcher historically inhabited the vast amount of willow and other riparian habitats found along the Rio Grande. However, in the early 2000's the Rio Grande Basin experienced the worst drought on record. This resulted in severely degraded willow habitat throughout the Refuge. The southwestern willow flycatcher population was immediately impacted and survey numbers indicated a drop from 29 territories in 1997 to only 3 territories in 2010 (Owen and Sogge 1997). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took action and designated critical habitat for the entire riparian habitat along the Rio Grande on the Refuge. This action prohibits any disturbance to this designated habitat to insure southwestern willow flycatcher population recovery. Other actions taken were the seasonal closure of the Rio Grande Nature Trail and certain portions of the Refuge's public fishing access area from April 15th through August 31st.