Baca National Wildlife Refuge

For many years, the 78,697 acres that are now Baca National Wildlife Refuge were part of the Luis Maria Baca Grant #4. Then The Nature Conservancy brokered a deal that allowed the Federal Government to come into ownership of about 97,000 acres of the Baca Grant. The land was divided up among the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, Rio Grande National Forest and Baca National Wildlife Refuge. Following that, Baca National Wildlife Refuge was formally established in 2003 with the US Fish & Wildlife Service in charge of administration. The property is administered jointly with the Alamosa and Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuges.

The majority of the property is semi-arid rangeland with a concentration of riparian areas and wetlands along Deadman, Crestone and San Luis Creeks. The south end of the property abuts San Luis State Park and the Zapata-Medano Ranch (another Nature Conservancy property). To the southeast is Great Sand Dunes National Park and to the east is the Sangre de Cristo Mountains section of the Rio Grande National Forest.

Several thousand acres of the property is irrigated hay meadows. The original ranch house and several other buildings are also on the property. Hay production and limited cattle grazing still go on and for the most part, Baca National Wildlife Refuge is not open to the public yet.

Upper photo of Baca NWR courtesy of Fred Bauder, CCA-by-SA 3.0 License