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descriptions and directions

Cottonwood Marsh photo by Peter Burke

Accessible Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge - Adams County
Ownership: Federal - USFWS
Description: Rocky Mountain Arsenal

Formerly a chemical weapons manufacturing site, the Arsenal was severely contaminated by years of disposal of toxic wastes within its boundaries. A Superfund cleanup site since the early eighties, the area is now a National Wildlife Refuge. 

Then Visitor Center is at 6550 Gateway Road. The Refuge is open sunrise to sunset seven days a week and is open most federal holidays (closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day). The Visitor Center is open Wednesdays - Sundays from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm (closed on all federal holidays). Call 303-289-0930 for more information.

Explore the Refuge on your own by taking the self-guided 9-mile Wildlife Drive auto tour that navigates through the bison pasture, grasslands, wetlands and woodlands (no bicycles allowed). The Wildlife Drive is open 7 days a week from sunrise to sunset (closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day). It’s a great way to access additional hiking trails, go birding and photograph the Refuge. To begin the Drive, follow the signs after entering the Refuge. A car symbol and arrow will guide you along the way. Please be sure to pick up a Wildlife Drive/Trail Map at the Visitor Center parking lot kiosk, inside the Visitor Center or at the Wildlife Drive kiosk. Be sure to read the rules and regulations before beginning your tour. Along the route there are two parking areas with trail access. The route is not plowed in the winter and a small portion of the drive is on gravel road. For winter road conditions on the Refuge please call the Visitor Center at 303-289-0930.

The Refuge has more than 10 miles of easy to moderate hiking available year-round to view and photograph wildlife. The network of trails are mostly soft gravel surface, however, some are mowed/dirt, and meander along lake edges, through prairie shrubland and woodland settings. In the wintertime, snowshoes are permitted on the trails.

A perimeter trail around the Refuge connects to neighboring communities allowing visitors on foot or on bicycles to take a peek into the Refuge. Pets are allowed on the perimeter trail, but only assistance dogs are allowed on the Refuge.

Even if the Arsenal is closed, the perimeter of it can be scanned from its border roads (56th on the south, Buckley Road on the east, 96th on the north, and Quebec Street and CO 2 on the west and northwest, respectively). Note that Buckley Road is permanently closed to vehicles from 56th north to 80th, but open to foot traffic. Lark Buntings have nested in the northeast corner of the refuge, and Burrowing Owls can be seen from Buckley Road. In winter, Bald Eagles roost on the refuge by the dozens. At one time a viewing site was established along Buckley Road from which visitors could watch the birds settle on their evening roosts, but according to refuge staff the eagles are no longer regular there, having been forced farther into the center of the Arsenal by air traffic at DIA.

Habitat: Grassland/Prairie, Hedgerow/Shelterbelt, Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Marsh, Yucca
Elevation: 5024
Directions: The Refuge is located at 6550 Gateway Road in Commerce City, CO 80022. From I-70 exit at Quebec Street and go north. Travel approximately 2.8 miles to Prairie Parkway/64th Avenue. Turn right at Prairie Parkway and travel 0.6 miles to Gateway Road. Turn left at Gateway Road. Continue on Gateway Road until you pass through the Refuge entrance.

Other Wildlife:
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Latest Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge Sightings from eBird


CBRC Records from Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

SpeciesAccession No.Date(s)
White-winged Dove2002-0885/13/2002
Little Blue Heron2000-0095/14/2000
Spotted Owl28-75-576/3/1975 - 6/5/1975
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher34-90-374/24/1990
Gray Flycatcher2017-061 09/25/2017
Eastern Towhee2014-170 12/05/2014
Eastern Meadowlark2016-040 06/08/2016
Prairie Warbler52-90-555/21/1990