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Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
San Diego, California
Level 6 Contributor
268 reviews
133 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 266 helpful votes
“So Worth It!”
Reviewed August 24, 2013

We loved this place for all the wildlife we saw. We went early, arriving just after 6 a.m. The visitor center doesn’t open until 9 a.m., but we wanted to see the wildlife which tends to be out early in the morning. As we started the nine mile drive, the first thing we drove into was the bison area. You can tell you’re in the bison area because there are signs telling you to stay in your vehicle. Very good advise. Besides, you car makes a good wildlife blind from which to take pictures.
The bison (mistakenly called buffalo by some) soon surrounded our truck! It was so exciting and they were so big! There were lots of calves: cute, reddish and frisky. A couple of the bison stopped by a tree for a good scratch. Good thing the tree was stout. What a wonderful start to the drive!
At the time we visited, they had 83 bison including 12 calves. But we also saw three herds of mule deer. One group of three were a mom, last years fawn, and this years fawn that still had its spots. The other herd of three didn’t have any obvious young. And the third group was a bachelor herd of eight males each with a fine rack of antlers still in velvet.
We observed some Swainson’s hawks including a fledgling on the ground being coax by an anxious parent. As soon as people came around the parent would start squawking. It’s good no one got close to the fledgling because Swainson’s have been known to protect their young from humans. Who can blame them.
We saw a large flock of double crested cormorants in a tree and some on the water. We saw white pelicans, gulls, and Canada geese on the water. We took a walk and saw prairie dogs, and a nice looking snake. By the water we found raccoon prints in the mud.
We’d always wanted to see a burrowing owl. They can sometimes be found in prairie dog towns. One of the refuge volunteers was out on his day off and offered to take us with him to look for them. We got to see one! It was thrilling. We were lucky to have found him and lucky the owls hadn’t migrated yet as we were just at the edge of their season. We recommend you, too, go early and be sure to get out of your car for a walk. But not in the bison area! Take a camera. You know you’re too close if your presence changes the animals’ behavior. One visitor got too close to a cormorant preventing anyone, including herself, from getting a good picture. Use wildlife watching etiquette.

Visited August 2013
2 Thank Art-Roxanne
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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206 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
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English first
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Level 3 Contributor
16 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
“Pleasant surprise”
Reviewed August 22, 2013

I couldnt say enough nice things about the staff and the center. You could borrow binoculars and then staff told you were to look for certain animals. Good place to see pairie dogs. A picked up a ton of interesting pamplets and didnt appreciate them until I got home. Definitely would hit the visitor's center before bringing you drive.

Visited August 2013
Thank P2thehizzy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level 6 Contributor
116 reviews
24 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 68 helpful votes
“Nice drive through wildlife refuge”
Reviewed August 19, 2013

It was hot - I'm not much for the heat, and I really can't do any creative photography when it's hot. But I got a new camera for my birthday and we were in Denver, so we drove through.

viewing wildlife is never a guarantee, even in a wildlife park, but we did see prairie dogs, and bison. the prairie dogs were very skittish, and if it wasn't so hot, I would've tried harder and waited longer for them to come back out of their holes, but I didn't feel like standing in the sun and heat and wait for them.

the Bison were out, but behind a fence, it's a fence they can get out of so it is possible to have them walk right up to your car, but they didn't.

I think this is some place I must come back to, when it's not so hot, there are many hiking trails and other places to explore - it's free! so I will be back when it's not so hot.

Visited August 2013
Thank CO_Photographer
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level 6 Contributor
123 reviews
39 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 26 helpful votes
“Worth a stop”
Reviewed August 7, 2013

This is a true hidden gem! Along our drive we saw a large herd of bison ( including babies) losts of prairie dogs, some deer, and other various wildlife. I would strongly recommend stopping here for a drive/ visit.

Visited June 2013
Thank Jennifer T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
San Carlos, California
Level 6 Contributor
244 reviews
141 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 146 helpful votes
“Military Arsenal Turned Nature Refuge”
Reviewed August 2, 2013

Don't miss the visitor center with its historical account of how this started out as a military arsenal and ended up as a wildlife refuge. One of the few success stories about how nature can heal itself with a little help from man.

We drove to the lake and saw tons of prairie dogs and a few mule deer. The path around Lake Ladora is a couple miles long and an easy walk. We saw some people fishing at Lake Mary. The refuge is a nice place to visit for free.

Visited July 2013
1 Thank fun2travel68
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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