A few weeks ago, SLVEC had the honor of organizing a tour on the Baca National Wildlife Refuge. Led by Refuge Manager Ron Garcia, attendees learned about San Luis Valley history, ecology, wetland conservation, wildlife biology, and management strategies at the Refuge.
The day was full of beauty and discovery.
Below are some photographs that highlight some of the stops that we made along the tour.
We began the day at the old Baca Ranch, which dates back to the 1860s. The historic ranch passed through many hands before being becoming the Baca National Wildlife Refuge in the early 2000s.
Fun Fact: A previous owner of the Ranch, Alfred Collins, once ran one of the top cattle operations in the country. After Collins' death in 1950, one of his prized Hereford bulls sold for $87,500! Other notable owners from the past include American Water Development Inc. and Stockman's Water, both who tried (unsuccessfully) to extract and sell water from the aquifer beneath the Ranch.
We got a glimpse of what the San Luis Valley might have looked like before European settlement/colonization, by visiting fields of native grasses.
Fun Fact: Native grasses on the Refuge provide sanctuary and habitat to some of Colorado's most vulnerable wildlife, including the silky pocket mouse, burrowing owl, and sandhill skipper butterfly.
Aquatic life and habitat are precious on the Refuge! We got a glimpse of some of the many flora and fauna that call this landscape home.
Fun Fact: The Refuge is home to the Rio Grande chub and sucker, some of our state's most endangered fish species. A study under the Smithsonian suggests that these fish were living in local waters over 6,000 years ago. Since the fish are so rare, their survival and health is a top priority at the Refuge.