Your Guide to Birding

in Chaffee County

County Map Chaffee County
Author(s):  Sherrie York
County Seat: Salida
Size: 1,008 square miles
Low Elevation: 6,880 ft. - Arkansas River on the Fremont border
High Elevation: 14,420 ft. - Mount Harvard
Best Birds: Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (1908), Golden-crowned Sparrow (1908)
Checklist: Chaffee County Checklist
Introduction: Chaffee County. Fourteeners and the Banana Belt in the same day! From Salida at 7,000' elevation to the summits of the Collegiate Peaks, the Upper Arkansas Valley offers good access to a wide variety of habitats: alpine tundra, ponderosa forest, pinyon-juniper woodland, high meadows, big aspen groves, and over 100 miles of river riparian. Over 70% of the county is public land, with plenty of trails and access along both the Continental Divide and the Arkansas River Valley floor. If you like to mix your birding with other forms of recreation, be sure to bring your kayak, your skis, your mountain bike, and your fishing pole and don't forget your swim suit (or in some places your birthday suit) for a dip in the area's hot springs when you've got a bad case of binocular neck.

The public river accesses through Chaffee County are managed by the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation District, a joint Colorado State Parks/BLM arrangement. Most require a State Parks Pass or a day use fee. While there are many points marked "DOW Fishing Access," please keep in mind that usually these are state leases on private land for fishing access only. Technically that means that unless you're carrying a fishing pole and a license, you're not supposed to be there and the property owner can make a complaint. Information and maps can be found at the AHRA office in Salida, on G Street between Sackett and First (Hwy 291). There is a Forest Service office on Highway 50 in Salida, as well and in the summer the "Crossroads" Visitor Center is open at the junction of Highway 50 and Highway 285 in Poncha Springs.

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Birding Sites

Bassam Park
Habitat: Mountain Meadow, Ponderosa Forest, Aspen Grove, Mixed-Conifer Forest, Lodgepole Forest
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Buena Vista
Habitat: Park, Stream, Urban/Suburban, Pond, Lowland Riparian
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Chubb Park
Habitat: Mountain Meadow, Ponderosa Forest, Aspen Grove
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Clear Creek Reservoir State Wildlife Area
Habitat: Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Sagebrush, Streamside Willow
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Cottonwood Lake
Habitat: Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Mixed Conifer Forest, Streamside Willow, Krummholz, Alpine Tundra
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Cottonwood Pass
Habitat: Spruce-Fir Forest, Krummholz, Alpine Tundra
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Fairview Cemetery
Habitat: Park/Cemetery
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Fourmile Travel Management Area
Habitat: Pinyon-Juniper Forest, Ponderosa Forest, Aspen Grove, Mountain Meadow, Mixed-Conifer Forest
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Monarch Pass
Habitat: Spruce-Fir Forest
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Mount Ouray State Wildlife Area
Habitat: Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Marsh, Stream
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Mount Shavano State Fish Hatchery and Frantz Lake SWA
Habitat: Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Hedgerow/Shelterbelt
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North Fork Reservoir Road
Habitat: Streamside Willow, Ponderosa Forest, Mixed Conifer Forest, Aspen Grove, Spruce-Fir Forest
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Sands Lake State Wildlife Area
Habitat: Pond/Lake/Reservoir
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St. Elmo/Chalk Creek Canyon
Habitat: Streamside Willow, Aspen Grove, Mixed Conifer Forest, Spruce-Fir Forest
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Steele's Meadows
Habitat: Wet Meadow
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Trout Creek Marshes
Habitat: Marsh, Streamside Willow
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Use the form on the home page to contact the editor with corrections or to volunteer to add a site.

eBird Seasonal Bar Chart

Latest Unusual Birds (eBird) in Chaffee County


CBRC Accepted Records from Chaffee County

SpeciesAccession No.Date(s)
Trumpeter Swan2005-147 12/29/2005 - 12/30/2005
Trumpeter Swan2006-021 3/3/2006
Tundra Swan2016-107 12/18/2016
Lesser Nighthawk2022-040 6 May 2022
Rivoli’s Hummingbird2008-091 7/8/2008
American Golden-Plover2022-020 24 May 2022
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron1908-0045/1/1908
Glossy Ibis2005-055 5/18/2005
Glossy Ibis2008-059 5/14/2008
Red-headed Woodpecker2022-014 12 Sep 2022
Crested Caracara2010-125 10/6/2010 - 10/7/2010
Great Crested Flycatcher2015-009 09/11/2004
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher2016-038 06/03/2016
Brown Thrasher2017-082 05/06/2017
Black-throated Sparrow2023-006 4 Apr 2023
Dark-eyed Junco (White-winged)2015-14601 Mar 2015
Golden-crowned Sparrow1908-0024/19/1908
Golden-crowned Sparrow2022-012 9 Mar 2022
Ovenbird2023-007 22 May 2023
Hooded Warbler2020-017 05/05/2020
Chestnut-sided Warbler2022-013 13 May 2022
Northern Cardinal2005-070 6/21/2005
Rose-breasted Grosbeak2013-30603 Jun 2013
Blue Grosbeak2013-30705 Jun 2013