Flickr album link: Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge
There are a few national wildlife refuges that are well worth experiencing around the San Louis Valley in the eastern Colorado Rockies. The Monte Vista NWR is located south of the Great Sand Dunes National Park near the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge, so these two great wildlife viewing areas can be experienced in one day. Modern amenities can be found in the small towns along the main thoroughfares in these parts, while several national forest campgrounds are nearby in the mountains. It is important to remember to pack a powerful lens or binoculars for this venture, since the closest place to find modern tech items is Pueblo or Denver. Due to the flat valley terrain, the longer the lens the better and a visitor will see why shortly after entering Monte Vista.
The Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge is located in a natural wetlands area that is surrounded by grassy plains. The wetland marshes and ponds are hemmed in by tall cattails, so the views of the water are limited to a few existing clearings and observation platforms. Those who wish to observe diverse western waterfowl and wading birds may become frustrated, because the birds can easily be heard all around, yet they are difficult to see. Things become even more hit or miss during the autumn hunting season, because the wild birds become even more wary when the human presence is near. Patience definitely is a virtue at Monte Vista, so be sure to set plenty of extra time aside when planning a serious birding venture.
There is a one way touring loop that goes around the edge of the entire Monte Vista wetlands. The touring loop ends back at the highway next to a mountain range observation post where large herd animals like elk and deer gather during the rutting season. Touring the wildlife loop dirt road at a snail's pace definitely is the best way to take in the sights and sounds. It is important to remember not to place the entire focus up looking into the wetland reeds along the way, because you will surely miss what this wildlife preserve is most famous for. Large flocks of sandhill cranes frequent the grassy planes and agricultural areas around the marsh and these gigantic birds certainly are rewarding to view. Going off trail is absolutely taboo and this is why a powerful lens will be needed for a successful Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge birding venture!
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