Hotspots Near You

186. Barr Lake State Park, Brighton, Colorado

This park northeast of Denver, home of the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, has recorded more than 350 bird species.
By Justine E. Hausheer | Published: 4/25/2014

Barr Lake was the first place I went birding after I moved to Colorado, and I spotted many of my first western birds here. The park covers 2,715 acres. Its varied habitats include a large man-made lake, mature cottonwoods, and expansive fields. An 8.8-mile path traces the water’s edge, neatly dividing fields on one side from cottonwoods on the other. Last August, I spent an hour watching Lazuli Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks, chickadees, and American Goldfinches pick seeds from sunflowers blooming along the path while Yellow Warblers chimed in from the cottonwoods overhead.

Spring and fall bring migrating Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Orange-crowned Warblers, and countless Yellow-rumped Warblers. In winter, Northern Shovelers and Common Goldeneyes jostle for space with mergansers on the lake. Raptors are a year-round presence. Kestrels hover above the fields, harriers cruise the lakeshore, and a pair of Bald Eagles nests every year. For a view of their nest, walk to the gazebo on the southwestern side of the lake. Don’t forget to scan the fields for meadowlarks and the occasional Ring-necked Pheasant. — Justine E. Hausheer

Justine E. Hausheer is science writer, editor, and photographer. She wrote about Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, Hotspot Near You No. 174, in December 2013.

186. Barr Lake State Park, Brighton, Colorado

Directions

Barr Lake State Park encompasses a 1,700-acre reservoir 18 miles northeast of Denver. From the city, go east on I-76 and take exit 22 onto Bromley Ln. Turn right and head east on E. 152nd Ave. for 0.9 miles. Turn right onto Picadilly Rd. and go two miles to the entrance. Park at the nature center.

Downloadable Files

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
39°56’13.95″N 104°45’9.63″W

Habitat

Lake, mature cottonwood stands, and fields.

Terrain

Flat. A wide dirt path follows lake perimeter.

Birds

More than 350 species. Spring: White-breasted Nuthatch, Downy Woodpecker, Western Meadowlark, Song and White-crowned Sparrows, House Finch, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Orange-crowned, Wilson’s, Yellow, and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Black-capped Chickadee, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Flicker, American and Lesser Goldfinches, Red-winged and Brewer’s Blackbirds, Bullock’s Oriole, American Crow, Black-billed Magpie, Blue Jay, Western Kingbird, American Coot, Northern Shoveler, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Hooded Merganser, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Double-crested Cormorant, Tree Swallow, Red-tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle, American Kestrel, Osprey, Northern Harrier, Mourning Dove, American Robin, American White Pelican.

When to go

Year-round.

Amenities

Downloadable bird checklist on website (PDF). Nature center has restrooms and a book shop. Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, on north side of lake, offers public bird-banding demonstrations in fall.

Access

State park. $7 per vehicle for day pass, or purchase annual pass for all Colorado state parks for $70. Open year-round from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Nature center open 9-4 Wednesday to Saturday and 11-4 Sunday.

Tips

Boaters and hunters use the northeastern section of park; from nature center, head left on trail for best birding. Don’t miss the feeders at the nature center.

For more info

Barr Lake State Park, (303) 659-6005.
Audubon Society of Great Denver

Sites nearby

Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR
20 miles southwest of park in Commerce City. Swainson’s Hawk, Burrowing Owl, Western Meadowlark, and buffalo.

Sand Creek Regional Greenway
Hotspot Near You No. 39. A 14-mile ribbon of green that crosses northeast Denver. Warblers, shorebirds, and Cliff Swallow.

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