Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge
With over a million acres covering more than 1600 square miles; 65% public land; lakes, rivers and reservoirs that attract and support unique and abundant wildlife; and access to five of Colorado’s most rugged and pristine wilderness areas – North Park lies at the center of a minimally used and amazingly untapped recreation universe.
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Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge

953 Jackson County Road 32
Walden, CO 80480
For detailed information contact 970-723-8202, or visit

Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge

Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge, located in central Jackson County south of the town of Walden, embodies the unique feel, character, and back-in-time nature of Colorado’s North Park basin.  Established in 1967 to furnish waterfowl place to nest and rear their young, the refuge, over the years, has also become habitat and home to other wildlife.  While “feathered fauna” are the refuge’s main draw, badger, muskrat, beaver, coyote, and pronghorn are commonly observed. Moose, more than occasionally, have been observed in the willow thickets along the Illinois River bottoms within the refuge. And as many as 400 mule deer and 200 elk have been sighted during winter months.


Refuge Workings: Water from the Illinois River is diverted through a complex system of ditches to irrigate the refuge’s wetland meadows and fill water fowl brood ponds. Manipulation of water levels ensures the generation of insect and vegetation nesting and food sources needed by most female waterfowl for successful egg laying. The insects also serve as an essential food item for the growth of ducklings and goslings during the summer months.


Migration and Nesting:  The first waterfowl arrive at the refuge in the spring when the ice vanishes in April. Peak migration of ducks occurs in late May, with nesting early to late June. Canada geese begin nesting on the refuge during April.  There have been 198 bird species recorded in the refuge. Most species may be observed during the entire summer season. Fall migration reaches its height in late September or early October when up to 8,000 waterfowl may be on the refuge.  The refuge’s wetlands also attract numerous marsh, shore, and water birds, including Sora and Virginia rails, American avocet, willet, sandpipers, Greater yellowlegs, and dowitchers. Less common species include great blue heron, black-crowned night heron, American bittern, and eared and pied-billed grebe.  The refuge’s upland hills harbor sage grouse year-round, while Golden eagles, hawks, and an occasional prairie falcon have been seen circling the refuge in search of food.      


Public access to the refuge includes a self-guided 6-mile wildlife auto tour route from nearby State Highway 14, and an overlook over the Illinois River valley. Public fishing is permitted along the Illinois River except in the areas marked closed. Portions of the refuge are open to public hunting of some game species during appropriate state seasons. The refuge is open for day-use only. Fires are not permitted on refuge lands.


An 1850 foot ADA compliant boardwalk was completed in August 2009 by Wildlands Restoration Volunteers. The volunteers built it over 5 years, with more than 6,000 man hours of labor. It winds along parts of the river where numerous animals and birds can be seen. Moose can often be seen among the willows. The boardwalk is about a mile southwest of the refuge headquarters.