As you arrive at the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge, you'll be greeted by the "gar-oo-oo" of sandhill cranes, the quacks of mallard ducks, and the vibrant whistling songs of western meadowlarks. It's natures way of saying "Hello and Welcome!" You will also find beautiful vistas of wetlands and meadows that make up great portions of the Refuge. As a backdrop to the Refuge's many scenic vistas, visitors can also enjoy amazing sunrises and sunsets provided by the nearby San Juan Mountains.
Fall Migration Water Conditions San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex 11/28/2022


   With the ending of summer comes the change of colors in the Aspens and a crisp new chill in the morning air.  Sounds of elk bugling and sandhill cranes calling, echo in the distance as Fall makes its announcement proclaiming…” I’m on my way!”.  This time of year starts the seasonal change for many of the wild species, that use the Refuges, to begin their migration from the northern territories of North America down to the southern areas of their native ranges.  For the refuges located in the San Luis Valley, this means flocks of waterfowl, shorebirds, and sandhill cranes arriving to utilize the resources provided in the area.  With water being the most valuable resource needed, these migratory birds seek out wetlands and wet meadows located on the refuges to feed and rest-up before starting their next leg on their migratory adventure. 

    This season has been very challenging to provide quality and consistent water and wetlands on the refuges.  Due to a dry winter and spring, combined with excessive winds, the refuges started out the spring irrigation season in poor condition.  However, in the month of June, monsoonal rains kicked in, (about 3- 4 weeks early), and many wetlands started to recover.  Unfortunately, it became apparent that damage had already occurred to the aquifer and the “sponge” underneath some of the wetlands.  The rest of the summer was a game of catch-up.  Irrigating wetlands just to have the water seep back into the ground overnight.  Combined with budgetary constraints such as increased electricity costs, maintenance costs, well augmentation requirements, and labor shortages, the refuges had to become more “creative” on their water management.  Reducing the number of acres irrigated and leaving some areas dormant throughout the summer and fall seasons.  The refuge staff has worked diligently to come up with a fall migration water plan to provide the best habitat possible, while still working within these constraints.  The following is a status of the water conditions on the refuges for this Fall.

Monte Vista NWR

With the onset of winter and cold temperatures most of the wetlands on the refuge have frozen over.  A handful of migrating waterfowl and Sandhill Cranes are still using small portions of the refuge, but their numbers are small.  

Public Viewing Areas –  

              * “Wildlife Drive” located east of the refuge office, is frozen, with a handfull of geese and cranes loafing on or near the ice covered ponds.    

              * “8S Pullout” located along County Rd 8S just east of Hwy 15 has agriculture fields where elk and mule deer have been observed lately.  

Waterfowl Hunting Areas -

              * All of the wetlands in the waterfowl hunting areas have frozen over.  There are a few warm-water artisian wells scatterd throughou the area that may still provide limited open water.  

***  As a reminder, there are various users and activities occurring on the refuge.  Please be respectful of All refuge visitors that are out enjoying the refuges. 


Alamosa NWR

Public Viewing Areas –  

              * With the onset of winter and cold temperatures most of the wetlands on the refuge have frozen over.  A handful of migrating waterfowl and Sandhill Cranes are still using portions of the Rio Grande, but their numbers are small.  

              * “Rio Grande Walking Trail” located at the Visitor Center is open from Sept 1st – April 15th.  Currently the trail is open.  Please DO NOT venture onto the ice covered river.  This is EXTREMELY dangerous!

              * “Malm Trail” located west of the Alamosa Refuge and accessed through the City of Alamosa property.

              * “Bluff Overlook Pullout” located on the far east side of the refuge along County Rd 116, overlooks a full “Bluff Slough” and adjoining wetlands.  The southern areas of the refuge are unfortunately dry. 

              * “Bluff Nature Trail” located on the southern portion of the refuge, off the Bluff Overlook Drive, is open but the area is dry. 

*** As a reminder, Waterfowl, Small Game, and Elk Hunting is currently occurring in designated hunt areas of the refuge.  Please use caution while around these areas and please be courteous to All users of the refuge. 

Waterfowl Hunting Areas -

              * All of the wetlands in the waterfowl hunting areas have frozen over.

Current water conditions will be updated throughout the fall seasons.  For more information about the Refuges, please call 1-719-589-4021

Visit Us


Directions to Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge: From the town of Monte Vista, drive south on State Hwy 15 (Gunbarrel Road) for 6 miles to the entrance of the Refuge. The small office and visitor contact station at the Refuge is located at the start of the Wildlife Drive. The visitor contact station is operated by volunteers and may not be open on a regular schedule.  All brochures and refuge information will be posted in the kiosk located near the entrance of the Wildlife Drive.  





For more information, please call us at 719-589-4021 or by email at You can also contact  Friends of the San Luis Valley Refuges for more information.

Location and Contact Information

      About Us

      Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge is located in the San Luis Valley, a high mountain basin located in south-central Colorado. It’s one of three national wildlife refuges in the Valley that provides crucial feeding, resting, and breeding habitat for over 200 bird species and other wildlife. Alamosa and Monte Vista Refuges are located at the south-central end of the Valley and Baca Refuge is located at the north end.

      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 highest peaks of the Sangre de Christo range take on a blood red glow which inspired the Spanish explorers to name them after the “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.

      The Refuge’s wetlands are artificially made and intensively managed to provide habitat for a variety of waterfowl and other water birds. Water from irrigation canals and wells maintain this important wetland habitat. Mallards, pintails, teal, and Canada geese are common, as are American avocets, killdeer, white-faced ibis, egrets, and herons. 

      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.

      Alamosa & Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge brochure

      What We Do

      Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the National Wildlife Refuge System. It drives everything on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands and waters managed within the Refuge System, from the purposes for which a national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
      A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

      Learn more about national wildlife refuge
      is established to the recreational activities offered to the resource management tools used. Using conservation best practices, the Refuge System manages Service lands and waters to help ensure the survival of native wildlife species.  
      Refuges deploy a host of scientifically sound management tools to address biological challenges. These tools span active water management to wilderness character monitoring, all aimed at ensuring a balanced conservation approach to benefit both wildlife and people.

      Our Species

      Sandhill Cranes

      Each year, thousands of Sandhill Cranes descend upon the wetlands and agricultural fields of the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge during their biannual migration to rest and fuel up for the next leg of their journey.  During the spring migration, the refuge will host ninety-five percent, 18,000-21,000, of the Rocky Mountain population of the Greater Sandhill Cranes and another 5,000-6,000 Lesser Sandhill Cranes.  This stop-over at the Monte Vista Refuge is critical for the cranes during their migration. At this time of year, most food sources and quality crane habitat are either under snow or are frozen.  However, on the refuge, wetlands are filled, and grain fields are mowed to provide the cranes the two elements needed for their migration… food and roosting cover.  The peak migration period of cranes on the Monte Vista Refuge is around the first week of March and again around the second week of October.  


      Our Library

      Alamosa & Monte Vista Refuges General Brochure.pdf

      Alamosa & Monte Vista Refuges General Brochure