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Wildlife Viewing
Wildlife Viewing
Sandhill Cranes and Chick

Watchable Wildlife in Colorado’s State Parks

Colorado’s 41 state parks provide habitat for an abundance of wildlife species. From the high country montane forests at State Forest State Park in northern Colorado to the desert southwest habitat of Trinidad Lake State Park in the southern portion of the state, wildlife watchers have the ability to see a variety of unique species that call Colorado home. If one ventures away from the metro area they will not only treat themselves to a diversity of habitats and wildlife viewing opportunities but also to an adventure to some lesser travelled parts of the state. Below is a listing of select parks along the border of Colorado that offer quality watchable wildlife viewing. So take a wildlife watching road trip this summer and visit these parks along the edges of our state! 

While on your adventure, make the most of your state park visit by staying overnight. CPW offers more than 4,000 campsites and 58 cabins and yurts located throughout the state, the perfect escape is only a click or phone call away. Take a look at our interactive map or begin customizing your experience now by searching the activities and facilities tabs in the Park Finder​.  

The treasure of water on the dry Eastern Plains…that’s what attracts birds, wildlife and people to John Martin State Park. Built along the Arkansas River, this large reservoir is a mecca for birdwatchers and a major site along the Colorado Birding Trail. Over 400 species have been documented on the water, along the shore and in surrounding woodlands and grassy uplands. Least terns and piping plovers, two federally protected species, nest here in spring and summer. Both mule deer and whitetail deer can be seen in the park as well as the occasional bobcat.  

Roadrunners don’t just live in the desert, their range stretches into Southeastern Colorado and they can roadrunneroften be seen by cruising the state park roadways at John Martin State Park. Park Manager Dan Kirmer suggests looking near the Red Shin Standing Ground and near the Lake Hasty campground for your best shot of catching a glimpse of these elusive ground-loving birds. When people think about watchable wildlife, they often think of animals such as mammals and birds but John Martin is also a great location to see unique arthropods including tarantulas and the predatory tarantula hawk, a large wasp that as its name suggest preys upon tarantulas. These critters can most commonly be seen in late summer by driving or hiking along the roadways and hiking trails of the park.  

At Trinidad Lake State Park one can expect to see a plethora of wildlife. Park Manager, Crystal Dreiling reports the following species can be seen throughout the park on a fairly common basis: roadrunner, desert cottontail, pocket gopher, deer, bobcat, coyote, and fox. Blue heron can best be seen along the west end of the park while beaver can be seen frequenting the Long's Canyon area. Reptile species that can be found throughout the park include bullsnake, prairie racerunner and the red-lipped plateau lizard.

Seven species of bats are known in the area (four that are considered rare), including the hoary bat and the little brown bat. Look during the evening along woodlands and rock outcrops for your best chance at seeing these bat species.

Steamboat Lake State Park – Steamboat Lake is known for its nesting Sandhill Cranes. The birds arrive in April and begin their courtship displays in the snow. Crane pairs usually select an isolated of a stream to build their nests and hatch their colts. Adults and colts can be seen in willows and in the surrounding open fields while feeding. Keep an eye out while driving from the Visitor Center around to Meadow Point. Cranes in our area are a rusty red color rather than the usually seen gray plumage because they use our high-iron mud for preening. The mud stains their feathers a rusty brown color.    

In summer, Steamboat Lake has a large hummingbird population including four different species of hummingbirds. Broad-tailed hummingbirds are the first to arrive in early May. Later in the summer, Rufous Hummingbirds and Black-chinned hummingbirds show up. Calliope Hummingbirds are seen yearly as they migrate to their high mountain nesting areas. All species can be seen at the numerous wildflowers in the park as well as the hummingbird feeders at the visitor center.

The Tombstone Nature Trail is a short, 1-mile hiking trail where a wide variety of wildlife can be seen. Mule deer are commonly seen in this area along with squirrels, chipmunks and a wide variety of birds.  

Moose, of course, is the claim to fame of State Forest State Park. They can be seen at the park year round which surprises many as they believe moose move to lower elevations in the winter. The truth is that they walk on stilts so snow is no issue for them. There are approximately 600 in Jackson County and perhaps 300 are here in the park. They prefer cooler temperatures so dusk and dawn are the best times during the day to see them. Come mid June a person might even get a glimpse of a calf.

River otters are also a treat that can be seen at State Forest. Park Manager, Joe Brand, recently saw one crossing the parking lot of the visitor center! However, the best locations in the park to spot them include the Ranger Lakes, North Michigan Reservoir, the Michigan River and the Canadian River. The Moose Visitor Center by the way is a must visit location when visiting the park. 

Other wildlife that can be seen include elk, deer, pronghorn, fox, coyote, marmot, beaver, weasel, mink, pine marten, squirrel, chipmunks, skunks, cottontails and jack rabbits. 

A last note as you plan your state park watchable wildlife adventure this summer – please remember that we have a responsibility to observe proper etiquette when viewing wildlife to ensure that we do not disturb them. Please see the Ethical Viewing Tips​ page.   

Mountain Biking, Road Biking, and Family Biking suggestions.​​​Buy A parks pass..​​​More outdoor recreation opportunities.
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Events

J.A.T.T.
Friday, May 26

"Just At Twilight Time" Explore the Barr Lake 9-mile trail at dusk by bike.

Baby Animals of Vega State Park
Friday, May 26

Join our Interpreter for an interactive presentation and film about baby animals at Vega State Park. Its this time of year, late spring to early summer, when many animals are born and start to explore their natural environment. Learn what you should do if you find a baby animal alone in the wild. We will meet at 6pm in the Visitor Center. The program is free but a Daily or Annual Parks Pass is required to enter the park.

Wild Messages - Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Sunday, May 28

Wild animalws leave funa nd exciting clues behind. Come search the forest for these messages!

Adventure Overnight Camp
Saturday, June 3

Take advantage of a rare opportunity to spend the night in park. Ages 7 to 13 only. Parents may participate as event chaperone. Registration is required!

Sunday Morning Bird Walk
Sunday, June 4

Come take a peaceful morning hike with a park naturalist along the Grassland Trail! We'll look (and listen!) for summer resident birds along the easy, 1/2 mile trail. Meet at the information kiosk next to Heinricy parking lot southwest of the campground. Bring water, sunscreen, and good walking shoes. Free and no registration required.

Tuesday Evening Outing on the Eagle Express
Tuesday, June 6

Sit back and ride aboard the Eagle Express for a rare evening excursion out to the bald eagle nest-viewing site.

Squirrelly Squirrels!
Saturday, June 10

Who is that barking at you from up in that pine tree? Who just disappeared under that rock? It’s a crafty, crazy squirrel in search of food! Learn all about our bushy-tailed buddies and how they live in the forest. Join the park interpreter for a story and craft project celebrating these fascinating animals.

Ranger Lakes Fishing Clinic
Saturday, June 10

Join us on June 10, 2017 for our annual Ranger Lakes Fishing Clinic with a Ranger. Rangers will be out at Ranger Lakes teaching all ages how to fish. Get outdoors and learn how to rig your rod, bait your line, and cast like a professional. No experience is needed, however, experienced anglers are also welcomed. Fishing equipment will be provided, or feel free to bring your own. A valid 2017 Colorado fishing license is required for 16 years and older. Fishing licenses are available for purchase at the Moose Visitors Center.

​ Wildlife Viewing Guides​

​​​bighorn sheep and mountain goat brochure cover ​

Bighorn Sheep
& Mountain Goats

 

​​Deer & Elk


 

cover of grouse, prairie-chickens and ptarmigan brochure

Grouse, Prairie​-Chickens
& Ptarmigan

Map
Brown Wildlife Viewing SignSelect a pin point for a description of the location and wildlife viewing information. There are over 200 sites to choose from. These sites are also published on the official Map to Colorado. Order yours today (included with the Vacation Guide). Look for the brown wildlife viewing signs at (most) location destinations. Download our wildlife viewing tips and checklist ​to use on your next wildlife viewing adventure.

 

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