Where the front range of the Rocky Mountains meets the Great Plains has always been a place where wildlife flourishes. In the recent past, millions of bison roamed in this territory while following the feeding grounds as the seasons changed. After the bison were slaughtered to extinction, it was made clear that any wild animal that stood in the way of unregulated capitalism would suffer the same fate. Fortunately in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the conservancy movement came to the cultural forefront. The protection of public lands and wildlife preservation has been a matter of utmost importance ever since.
Many wildlife refuges have been created nationwide and each serves a purpose of ensuring species survival. Sometimes the reason why a particular wildlife refuge exists may not be obvious, because the refuge may only be there for migratory animals that briefly pass through for a short time each year. In a migratory refuge, if a visitor is not on location at the right moment, there will be very little wildlife viewing to be done. Other wildlife refuges may act as a haven for local wildlife, instead of being a migratory shelter, so wildlife viewing can be done year round in such a place.
The Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico is a good example of a migratory bird refuge that also shelters the herd animals year round. The Maxwell Wildlife Refuge is located where the Great Plains meet the mountains, so this truly is a home where the deer and the antelope play!
Just like with most conservation areas, human activities also take place in the Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge. Migratory bird watching and photography are the primary activities at the feeding grounds and lakes in this wilderness area. The migratory movements are brief in this region, so researching the topic will be necessary, in order to be on location at the right time of year. The Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge staff and website are the best resources for this topic matter.
The Maxwell Refuge also allows seasonal fishing and small craft boating at Lake 13 in this vast wildlife range. The lake is stocked with Rainbow Trout, so some mighty fine campsite dinners can be planned for the menu! Primitive campsite areas are also available in this refuge, so those who wish to find some peace and quiet in the great outdoors will need to look no further.
Ranger hosted birding ventures during the autumn season are the most popular activity at the Maxwell Refuge, but local wildlife can be viewed in this place year round. The Maxwell Refuge is located in open range ranch territory, so the natural terrain extends well beyond the borders of the federal property. Cereal grains and alfalfa are planted in the Maxwell Refuge to provide feed for both the migratory birds and the local wildlife. The feed acts as an attractant and this is what makes this refuge such a great place to view wild animals all year long.
During the spring season, the deer and the antelope are fairly easy to spot, but where they will actually be in this refuge is just about anybody’s guess. There is a long gravel road that goes to the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center and this is a good place to start, because there are ditches and ponds within view where waterfowl can be seen. The grassy high plains cover this entire region, so looking for the large herd animals can take a bit more patience to accomplish.
Basically the rule of thumb for herd animal wildlife viewing in the High Plains goes like this. If the herd animals are not at one place, do not bother waiting around for them to arrive in the near future, because that will likely be a waste of time. Moving on to the next likely area is the better option. By cruising west on SR 505 from the gravel entrance road, views of the border of the refuge can be seen. SR 505 dead ends at U.S. Highway 64, which runs through more open range ranch territory near the western border of the wildlife refuge. Plenty of wildlife can be seen when touring this road too. The old historic Colfax Tavern is located at the intersection of SR 505 and Highway 64, which is a nice convenience in this desolate place.
As can be seen in the photos, most of the wild animals that I spotted were located along SR 505 and Highway 64. A herd of mule deer were crossing the road, which made for a good photo opportunity and there were several Pronghorn Antelope to be seen too. A few Red Tail Hawks perched on the old telephone poles kept the Prairie Dogs scurrying for cover in the fields, which was amusing to see.
The Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge is located just a few miles west of Interstate Highway 25, which is a major tourism corridor in New Mexico and Colorado. Most of the Interstate Highway commuters speed through this region, but those who take the time to stop and smell the roses near Maxwell, New Mexico will be pleasantly pleased. The Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge definitely is a great place to take a break from the road. Doing a little picnic in a peaceful natural setting while viewing wildlife is as it good as it gets!
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