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​Wildlife and Plants

Park uplands are dominated by mixed conifer and aspen forests and Gambel oak shrublands. Common tree species include ponderosa pine, Rocky Mountain juniper, Douglas-fir, Colorado blue spruce, Rocky Mountain maple and aspen.

Shrubs present within the park include common juniper, snowberry, thimbleberry, red raspberry, serviceberry and three-leaved sumac. Diverse wetland and riparian plant communities have become established, particularly in Muddy Creek and the North Fork of the Gunnison River.

Many migratory and resident birds like raptors, waterfowl and shorebirds are attracted to the upland and reservoir habitats. Mule deer and elk are a common sight, because the park lies in big game winter range. Black bear may occasionally be observed foraging for wild fruits. Other common mammals include cottontail rabbit, marmot, raccoon, skunk, coyote and ground squirrel.

Anglers are attracted by the cold-water fishing opportunities, which include northern pike and brown trout, however, fish populations are limited by reservoir siltation.


Paonia features a 334 surface-acre reservoir filled primarily by Muddy Creek flows. The park is situated in a deep, narrow canyon between the Ruby Range, Raggeds Wilderness and Grand Mesa. Two major geologic formations, Mesa Verde and Fort Union are visible and were deposited in the Cretaceous and Paleocene periods. Fossilized palm fronds and willow and elm leaf imprints are visible in canyon boulders.