Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge
One of the three ponds at Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge
The smallest urban unit in the National Wildlife Refuge System with only 72.2 acres, Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1992 through the efforts of a local citizen's group. Their intent was to save this 63.2 acres of uplands and 9 acres of wetlands (with three small ponds) from a developer's bulldozer.
Once upon a time, this countryside was typical High Plains shortgrass and mixed grass prairie, but that habitat was altered by invading human pioneers who plowed the prairie sod to grow crops and allowed their cattle and sheep to roam the area while grazing. Then came the aftermath of World War II and a huge influx of people to the Denver Metroplex. Very quickly, this beautiful area to the northwest of the city proper was urbanized and housing developments sprang up all over. Finally, the Two Ponds Preservation Foundation was founded and began the effort to preserve at least one small vestige of the Colorado-that-was for the wildlife that remained.
The riparian areas of the refuge are filled with milkweed, bulrushes, cattails and willows while the upland areas tend more to the brome grass and needle-and-thread grass side of things. In most areas you'll also find prickly pear, yucca and rabbitbrush. The canals and ponds in the area are lined with mature cottonwoods and there are a few apple trees, ornamental trees and decorative shrubs around to remind us that people once homesteaded this property, too. For wildlife there are mule deer, red foxes, coyotes, beavers, muskrats, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, voles, turtles and more than 120 species of birds.
Two Ponds NWR is a day-use only refuge. Camping and campfires are not allowed anywhere on the property. Trails on the west side of the property are open to the public year round, from dawn to dusk. Trails on the east side of the property are open to the public from dawn to dusk only from May through September (the east side is where most of the nesting birds hang out). Dogs are never allowed on the property.
To get there: Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge is located on the south side of 80th Avenue between Wadsworth and Kipling Boulevards in Arvada. For more information, there is a kiosk at the entrance to the property next to the parking area.
Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge is administered as part of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Two Ponds is also a stop along the Rocky Mountain Greenway, a trail that will eventually extend from Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge to the east through Two Ponds and on to Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge to the west and Rocky Mountain National Park to the northwest.
In the Environmental Education Zone at Two Ponds
Lower photo courtesy of Sherry James, US Fish & Wildlife Service
Other photos and map courtesy of the US Fish & Wildlife Service