Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge
|Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge|
IUCN category IV (habitat/species management area)
|Location||Alamosa County & Rio Grande County, Colorado, United States|
|Area||14,800 acres (60 km2)|
|Governing body||U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service|
|Website||Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge|
Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge is a United States National Wildlife Refuge located in southern Colorado. The refuge is located in the San Luis Valley approximately 10 miles (16 km) west of the town of Alamosa in southeastern Rio Grande and western Alamosa counties, in the watershed of the Rio Grande. It administered jointly with the nearby Baca and Alamosa refuges by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. It was established in 1953 by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission to provide a habitat for wildlife, particularly waterfowl, in the San Luis Valley.
Description and history
The site was historically an agricultural area and thus water is intensively managed on the refuge, especially in comparison to the nearby Alamosa refuge. Irrigation includes numerous dikes and other water control structures that provide water to a patchwork of diverse wetland habitats ranging from shallow wet meadows to open water. The refuge includes Artesian wells, pumped wells and irrigation canals, some dating to the "ditch boom" of the 1880s. The refuge is a major stopover for migrating greater sandhill cranes moving between their wintering area around Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico and breeding grounds in the northern United States and southern Canada. Up to 20,000 cranes pass through in the spring and again in the fall. Three remaining endangered whooping cranes from a failed attempt to establish a wild migratory population in the 1980s can be seen migrating with their foster species, the sandhill crane. Beginning in the l980s, a herd of elk began using the refuge. At present, several hundred elk may be seen on the refuge seeking winter food and sanctuary from hunting pressure on nearby public lands.
The refuge may be viewed by automobile along a 4 miles (6.4 km) auto tour, as well as from county roads. A visitors center for the Alamosa/Baca/Monte Vista complex is located in the Alamosa refuge southeast of the town of Alamosa.