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Watching wildlife at Denver's arsenal.

DEADLY COCKTAILS OF TOXIC mixtures dot parts of the 17,000-acre Rocky Mountain Arsenal, where chemical weapons and pesticides were manufactured from World War II to 1982. For nearly 50 years, this windswept prairie just 10 miles east of downtown Denver was off-limits to the public, and undeveloped. One serendipitous result is that the arsenal became a haven for an abundance of wildlife.

Recently it opened to the public for free 1 1/2-hour guided double-decker bus tours. Tours amble across the plain, some of it never plowed and still waving with native grasses such as blue grama and Western wheat grass.

Many animals come here in winter, drawn by snow-free grasses and other food sources. You'll find coyotes, prairie dogs, herds of mule and white-tailed deer, pheasants, and more bald eagles than anywhere else in Colorado. You may see as many as 40 bald eagles roosting at once; look for them in cottonwoods along First Creek.

Ferruginous hawks also winter here. They sometimes hunt by sitting on the ground near prairie dog holes, waiting for dinner to emerge.

Meanwhile, a chemical cleanup is under way--the arsenal is one of the largest of the Environmental Protection Agency's 1,200 Superfund priority sites. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues to study cleanup efforts and to watch wildlife for signs of toxic poisoning. Although the site is still U.S. Army land, a bill being drafted in Congress would make the arsenal a permanent wildlife refuge.

SIGNING UP FOR TOURS

The Fish and Wildlife Service sponsors the bus tours on Saturdays and Sundays year-round; for times and directions, and to make required reservations, call (303) 289-0132. Or visit the eagle-viewing blind free from 6 to 9 A.M. or 3 to dusk; it's off Buckley Road between 64th and 72nd avenues.

Dress warmly, and bring binoculars and a birding guide. Don't expect silence--planes from nearby Stapleton airport are disruptive.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Colorado
Author:Finnegan, Lora J.
Publication:Sunset
Date:Mar 1, 1992
Words:319
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