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.

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

      Spring Sandhill Crane Viewing Week of 3/27/2022

      As Spring is starting to awaken from its winter nap here at the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge, the Greater Sandhill Cranes are starting to wind down their seasonal migration through the San Luis Valley. Only a few short weeks ago, thousands of cranes, (~ 23,000),

      occupied the wetlands and agriculture fields on the refuge; foraging for barley grain to fuel their migration and forming pair bonds with potential mates.  Even though the cranes have almost disappeared from the valleys landscape, there are still cranes to be viewed.  There is an estimated 1000 -1500 cranes still roasting on the Wildlife Drive and along the Hwy 15 Observation Pullouts.  The best times to view these cranes are right at first light and again around sunset. 


      Other migrators are also arriving on the Monte Vista Refuge such as, waterfowl, shorebirds, and raptors.  Keep an eye out for baby owlets peaking over the crest of their nests. 

      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.  


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      Alamosa & Monte Vista_GeneralBrochure

      Alamosa & Monte Vista Refuges General Brochure