Denver Photo Locations - Rocky Mountain Arsenal

December 18, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

This is the next in my series of PFB Images blog posts about outdoor photography locations in the Denver metropolitan area.  This month, I’m featuring the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.  The refuge is located northeast of Denver in Commerce City, between Quebec Street and Peña Boulevard.  The main entrance is on Prairie Parkway, about 2.5 miles north of I-70 off of Quebec, and is well signed.  The refuge is free, and is open from sunrise to sunset except major holidays.  The Visitor Center hours vary by season; see the refuge’s website for details.

As the name implies, the refuge is a great venue for wildlife photography.  The bison area (only accessible by car as part of the Wildlife Drive) allows you to drive among and photograph these large mammals if the herd is in the southern part of their range.  In my experience, the herd is most often along the Wildlife Drive in the early morning and late afternoon, but this varies with weather and grazing patterns.  Even if the bison are not around, keep your eyes open.  I have photographed deer, hawks, owls and prairie dogs in the bison area.

The lakes scattered through the eastern section of the refuge allow for further wildlife viewing, adding waterfowl, turtles, and frogs to the long list of photography subjects.  The trail and boardwalk at Lake Mary provide an easy hike, with good photography opportunities for waterfowl around the lake’s island.  I have had good luck with deer around the east end of Lake Ladora, both on the Lake Ladora trail and from the road.  Wintering bald eagles prefer the less busy areas of the refuge around Upper and Lower Derby Lakes.  I spent an enjoyable half hour with several other photographers taking pictures of a group of bald eagles on the ice in Lower Derby Lake last winter.

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