Castlewood Canyon State Park
- Douglas County
Description: The third county IBA, because Prairie Falcons, Cordilleran Flycatchers, Virginia's Warblers, and Western Tanagers breed in the park. The park has two points of access: Park Headquarters and Visitor Center (east side) and Castlewood Canyon Road (west side).
East side: Visit park headquarters, which has a small exhibit area, a gift shop, and restrooms. From this section it offers Canyon Rim trail and two (connected) trails down into the canyons of Cherry Creek and Lake Gulch. These give access to its main habitats: ponderosa pine woodlands, scrub oak brushlands, mixed Douglas-fir/Ponderosa forest, and rocky cliffs. Here you can encounter Canyon Wrens year-round and, in summer, Violet-green and Cliff swallows.
West side: Spectacular flights of vultures originate on the west side from April to September. They roost in the trees on the west side of the access road and fly out over the whole park and surrounding area.
At the first parking lot walk down the Homestead Trail to Cherry Creek. In summer, over the Cherry Creek bridge and up the east side, birders sometimes find an Indigo Bunting singing among the Lazulis, and maybe a Black-and-white Warbler. For two summers (15 years ago) a territorial Blue-winged Warbler sang from the bridge area. In recent years, Ovenbirds and Red-eyed Vireos have added to the morning chorus.
To sample all park habitats, continue on that trail to walk a circle route from the east rim to Cherry Creek, Castlewood Dam, and back along Cherry Creek to the Homestead (about 6 miles).
Or drive to the next parking lot (restrooms) or the last one (Falls Parking Lot) and explore trails either right or left. East-side trails take you through scrub oak (Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Virginia's Warbler, Spotted Towhee), and west-side trails lead through ponderosa and mixed conifers up to the cliffs, where you can see, close-up, roosting vultures, nesting Violet-green Swallows and White-throated Swifts. Here you can also see breeding Broad-tailed Hummingbirds and Cordilleran Flycatchers. Common Poorwills call at dusk and dawn. Tread carefully along these trails, which have drop-offs.
From the west side road, continue through the park to the open ranchland to the south. Here both species of bluebird and Tree Swallows nest in a l00-box bluebird trail. Lewis's Woodpeckers (not seen for several years) occasionally show up in the stream bottom east of the road. Beyond the entrance to the Winkler Ranch, look in the hayfields to the east and southeast for Bobolink (usually across the stream), Brewer's and Red-winged blackbirds, and rarely, Grasshopper Sparrow (both sides of the road) and Dickcissel. New owners have changed the hay-mowing regime, and the Bobolinks have not fared well. To see them, go in June.
Read more about Castlewood Canyon State Park here.
Habitat: Cliff Face, Ponderosa Forest, Mixed Conifer Forest, Scrub Oak Forest, Grassland/Prairie
Directions: To east side: from Franktown go south on CO 83 about 3 miles to main park entrance; right (west) into park. To west side: From Franktown go west on CO 86 one quarter mile, just across Cherry Creek; south on Castlewood Canyon Road 2 miles to park entrance.
Restrictions/Hazards: Dogs on leash. No horses. No motorized vehicles on trails.