Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge6550 Gateway Rd.
Commerce City, CO 80239
Located just northeast of Denver, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, approximately a 15,000-acre expanse of shorgrass prairie, has survived the test of time and transitioned from farmland, to war-time manufacturing site, to wildlife sanctuary. It may be one of the finest conservation success stories in history and a place where wildlife thrives. A place where visitors reconnect with nature and experience the many opportunities the Refuge has to offer.
Prior to becoming a Refuge, Plains Indians followed large herds of bison and lived off the land. Later, as settlers moved west to start a new life, they began growing crops and grazing cattle. 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 the war effort. As production declined at war’s end, a portion of the idle facilities was eventually leased to Shell Chemical Co. for the production of agricultural chemicals. The Arsenal was later used for Cold-War weapons production and demilitarization.
In the early 1980s, the Army and Shell began an extensive environmental cleanup under the oversight of federal, state, and local regulatory agencies. Soon after, a roost of bald eagles was discovered prompting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to become involved in managing wildlife at the site. The discovery also led Congress to designate the site as a future national wildlife refuge. In the mid 1990s, a unique public-private partnership formed among the U.S. Army, Shell Oil Co., and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As cleanup progressed and projects met federal and state regulatory requirements, the Army transferred 12,500 acres of land to the Service to establish and expand the Refuge. The Arsenal’s cleanup program will be completed in 2010. At that time, the Refuge will reach its final size of 15,000 acres with a final land transfer from the Army, making it one of the largest urban refuge’s in the country.
The Refuge provides environmental education and interpretive programs, catch-and-release recreational fee fishing, nearly nine miles of trails, wildlife viewing opportunities and site tours for the public, and is a sanctuary for more than 330 species of animals, including wild bison, deer, coyotes, bald eagles and burrowing owls. For more information about Refuge opportunities, please call the visitor center at 303-289-0930.