A variety of wildlife ranging from elk to migratory waterfowl and a combination of wetlands and a desert-like environment make San Luis a unique place to experience nature.
San Luis state wildlife area (SWA) features an 890 surface-acre playa lake, with water levels stabilized as in a reservoir, amid rolling sandhills and alkaline flats of San Luis Valley. The park is covered by Recent parabolic deflation dunes overlying Pliocene and Pleistocene outwash fan deposits. Pleistocene glaciation represents the last major geologic event. Outwash from melting glaciers was deposited across the valley floor and many large playas were created. The state wildlife area occupies a rift valley that escaped the Tertiary uplifts of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The valley created by both rift faulting and a graben which sank as the mountains rose.
Ecologically, park uplands are dominated by saline bottom land shrublands, cold desert shrublands and salt meadows. Common plant species for the area include greasewood, rubber and Greene rabbitbrush, four-wing saltbush, yucca, western wheatgrass, alkali cordgrass, saltgrass, Indian ricegrass, needle-and-thread grass, sandhills muhly and blue grama. Diverse wetland and aquatic plant communities have become established around and in the playa including habitat for the rare slender spider-flower.
Clark's Grebe on San Luis Lake
The combination of wetlands, lakes and dry valley floor environments provides a fantastic wildlife viewing and recreation area. Migratory waterfowl and other birds are frequent visitors to these tranquil waters. Coyotes, kangaroo rats and rabbits are common sight in the surrounding dunes. Elk, songbirds, raptors, reptiles and amphibians all find refuge in this unlikely riparian oasis hidden in the low dunes of the San Luis Valley.
The protected lands of the 2,054-acre wildlife area preserve critically-important habitat for unusual flora and fauna. State wildlife areafacilities have been carefully planned to minimize the disruption and impact of visitors to these species. The fragile dune environment is damaged easily. Please obey all access restrictions to provide undisturbed habitat for our rare plants and wildlife.