Ghost

Mine Ranch

This Is Colorado Living

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Flora & Fauna

From the scrubby juniper trees in the lower and drier elevations to the aspen and pine stands in the upper altitudes, the plant life in and around the ranch varies with the rainfall.

The dominant tree is the juniper with a scattering of sage brush. In wet years, wild purple four o’clocks sprout, bunch grass and buffalo grass appear. In dry years, the grasses go dormant.

The ranch does have rattlesnakes and rabbits. Deer are present year round as are antelope. Elk come down through the ranch to winter on the plains and then follow the snow line back up during the spring.

The valley hosts three National Wildlife Refuges. Birds of all types can be viewed at all times of the year.

Early spring brings clouds of ducks, cranes, and geese back to the valley Refuges, reminiscent of pre-European accounts. Thousands of northern pintails, Sandhill cranes, and Canada geese can be seen throughout the valley refueling for their journey to northern breeding grounds.

Summer brings nesting shorebirds (American Avocets, Wilson’s Phalaropes, White-faced Ibis), and water birds (American Bittern, Sora, Black-crowned Night Herons) arrive.

When Ice box conditions of winter hit the valley, some waterfowl are found, but raptors dominate the landscape. Short-eared Owls winter and breed on both refuges. Wintering Bald Eagles can be seen fishing and roosting along the Rio Grande at Alamosa NWR, and many other raptors are found (Northern Harriers, Rough-Legged hawks, and Great Horned Owls).

The strangest group of residents are the alligators. Yes alligators in Colorado at 8500 feet. You have to see it to believe it.