After being used by the military, they leased the property to several private companies who manufactured fertilizers and other chemical compounds there. Eventually, it was abandoned and considered a hazardous waste site. However, it has since been cleaned up through a long and arduous process through cooperation of the government as well as private companies who used to property in the later years. Once the clean-up was complete, 15,000 acres was turned over to the Fish and Wildlife Service and is now a National Wildlife Refuge.
330 species of animals now inhabit the property. It was first discovered that, in the absence of people there, Bald Eagles has made the place their home, setting in motion the move to create a wildlife sanctuary at The Rocky Mountain Arsenal. Bison were reintroduced to the land in 2007, and other animals and plants flourish there now as well.
The site, just northeast of Denver, Colorado is home to 280 different species of birds with several different species of migrating birds coming through each spring on their trek north. The park is open from sunrise to sunset year round, and the Visitor’s Center is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. It is recommended, if this is your first visit to RMA, to come during a time when the visitor’s center is open so that you can learn the rules and regulations and make sure you stay safe and have the best viewing opportunities during your visit.
There are even guided tours for those who don’t want to go it alone or are looking for something a little more structured. There are programs in Waterfowl Identification, Animal Track Identification, Birding, and even plenty of tours and activities that are great for kids of all ages.
There is a wildlife drive through the park that will take between half an hour and an hour to complete. This is a great option for people with kids or those who may have difficulty walking the many trails at the park, while still offering ample wildlife viewing opportunities. The drive is 9 miles long and the maximum speed you may travel is 30 mph. If you would like to stop to view the animals, it is requested that you pull to the side of the road, but do not exit your vehicle. This is especially true in the case of Bison viewing. They are amazing and beautiful animals, but you must remember that they are just that – wild animals. You should stay at least 50 – 100 yards away. If they should be crossing the road, it is best to stop at a distance away and wait patiently for them to pass. Do not yell at them or honk the horn.
There are many trails throughout the sanctuary as well. You can experience grassland habitat with the Gateway, Legacy, and Discovery Trails, just to name a few. The Wetlands Habitat Trails include the Lake Mary Loop Trail, The Rod & Gun Club Wildlife Blind and the Lake Landora Loop Trail. You can also experience woodlands habitat on the Rod & Gun Club Trail as well as the Woodland Trail. The soil here ranges from clay-like to sandy and creates great growing conditions for the many different types of plants that you encounter on your journey through the park.
It is important to remember to stay on marked trails while hiking or walking through RMA and to abide by the signs that are posted. You should “leave only footprints and take only pictures”, as is simply good etiquette in any national park. At The Rocky Mountain Arsenal, in fact, it is prohibited to search for or remove any items or objects from the property. Dogs, other than service dogs, are not allowed here, and neither is bicycling except from the entrance to the visitor’s center, so you will want to keep those things in mind when you visit.
Rocky Mountain Arsenal may have started it’s life in quite a different fashion that you will find it today, but the abundance of wildlife and plant species you will find there would never give away that secret. This is an amazing animal viewing opportunity for young and old and perfect for the entire family. It is also a great way to learn more about different animals and their habitats. You can plan your trip to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal right from their website. It’s a trip your whole family will love!