Boardwalk across Lake Mary at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

Rocky Mountain Arsenal is a former weapons manufacturing facility for the U.S military. After many years of polluting the land and groundwater in the area, the factory was closed down. Many more years went into removing toxic wastes and cleaning up the mess. These days, the almost 17,000-acre site has essentially been reclaimed by nature with herds of mule deer and pronghorns roaming the property. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has recently reintroduced bison to the land and with 44 head (at last count), they seem to be doing very well.

The property consists of woodlands, prairie grasslands, open water and lots of wetlands. With its close proximity to the Denver Metroplex, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge has become "a significant habitat island for wildlife" and "a place to renew the relationship with nature." Fish & Wildlife are still working over about 8,000 acres of disturbed land on the property: removing the noxious and exotic imported weeds and restoring native prairie grasses, wildflowers and shrubs. The rest of the property is open to the public and popular activities there include environmental education programs for school children, wildlife viewing, fishing (catch and release only at Lake Ladora and Lake Mary during the summer months), hiking and photography. There are several interpretive kiosks around the Refuge with trail maps and info about habitat and wildlife observation opportunities. The visitor center has displays, wildlife exhibits and several hands-on activities for everyone. There is even a floating boardwalk on Lake Mary to make it easier to get aquainted with the local aquatic species.

To get there: get off the I-70 at the Havana Street exit and go north on Havana. You'll enter the property through the South Gate at the intersection of 56th Avenue and Havana Street. Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is only open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, 6 am to 6 pm for day-use activities only.