From Chemical Weapons to Wildlife Refuge…day 81


“The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is a 15,988-acre National Wildlife Refuge located just outside of Denver in Commerce City, CO. The facility is on the grounds of the former Rocky Mountain Arsenal, a United States Army chemical weapons manufacturing facility. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Army transformed the area into a chemical weapons manufacturing facility called the Rocky Mountain Arsenal to support World War II. As production declined at war’s end, a portion of the idle facilities were leased to Shell Chemical Co. for the production of agricultural chemicals. The Arsenal was later used for Cold-War weapons production and demilitarization. The site was designated a national wildlife refuge in 1992 by Congress, and underwent an environmental cleanup to remove pollutants. The refuge is managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and more than 330 species of  wildlife inhabit the refuge, including deercoyoteswhite pelicansowls, and American bison.”  (Credit –

The Arsenal is literally right smack in the middle of the least aesthetically pleasing area of Denver. The grounds surrounding the Arsenal are stark, empty and open and this morning, eerily silent. As you enter the park you cross over what appear to be standard cattle gates, but instead of cattle, the gates exist to contain the two dozen bison that inhabit the surrounding area and there are multiple signs warning caution against exiting your car (apparently bison are “unpredictable”, but today there were none to be seen).

Beyond the bison area are multiple parking lots and trailheads, picnic tables and fishing areas (today all sat empty and quiet).  Apparently I was the only one who was brave (or foolish) enough to venture out on a day with gale force winds to view and attempt to photograph any animals. The wind coupled with the remoteness of the location, had me thinking that I probably shouldn’t wander too far, so the trip was windy, uneventful and unfortunately brief.

A quick stop at the visitor’s center on the way out convinced me a second trip here is most definitely in order. The volunteers were welcoming and gregarious, helpful and knowledgeable and completely convinced the strong wind was the reason for the absence of animals out and about today, though I was lucky enough to see a few Ferruginous Hawks which were fantastic, multiple mule deer and a few other random birds I couldn’t identify. All in all today’s trip was a fabulous experience, and the Arsenal is a recommended visit if your travels ever find you out this way…

Taken with my Canon 6D, EF 24-105mm lens, camera settings at 1/400s, f4, ISO 100

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Mahatma Ghandi


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