The Chico Basin Ranch and the Medano Zapata Ranch are home to some of the state’s best birdwatching. Both ranches are great places to sight numerous rare songbird species in addition to birds of prey, waterfowl, and other migratory species. The Chico features a birding trail that helps locate birding hotspots for a great day of watching. In addition, the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory operates a bird banding station on the Chico each fall and spring, and visitors are welcome to come participate in the process and learn about the hundreds of bird species found on the ranch. RMBO and the ranch also operate a birding blog [link] for information on current birding opportunities. The RMBO’s list of bird species sighted on the ranch currently numbers over 330.

Birding on the Zapata is no less spectacular, where the annual sandhill crane migration brings hundreds of thousands of cranes to the ranch and the surrounding San Luis Valley. Visitors are welcome on both ranches for a small trespass fee. Contact each ranch for specific information.


n the San Luis Valley, the Zapata Ranch’s aquifer-fed lakes, streams and wetlands, combined with low levels of precipitation, have resulted in a unique ecosystem which some have described as “the Rocky Mountain Serengeti.” Hundreds of species of waterfowl and shorebirds migrate through the valley every year. Thousands of sandhill cranes highlight the spring and fall while hawks, eagles and owls dot the blue sky daily. In addition to resident bison and cattle herds, the Zapata is home to elk, mule deer, and coyotes. A short hike or pack trip into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains may include a black bear or mountain lion sighting. Around the lodge, enjoy black squirrels and jackrabbits with a clear view of our horse herd in pasture. The biodiversity of the land is an important indicator of its health, and we go to great lengths to see that it’s preserved and enhanced.

At the Chico Basin Ranch, the varied terrain offers opportunities for viewing an equally varied list of wildlife. The ranch’s prairie dog towns attract numerous predators, including coyotes, swift foxes, burrowing owls, and raptors. Additionally, large herds of antelope roam the open range and can easily be watched as they graze or congregate near water. Whitetail deer, mule deer, bobcats, badgers, and porcupines are also known to make their homes on the ranch.

Both the Chico and the Zapata are open to the public for a small trespass fee. Contact each ranch for specific information.

Header photo by Michael Forsberg | Left column photo by Bill Maynard

CONTACT US 719.683.7960