Author(s): Andrew Spencer, Nathan Pieplow
County Seat: Walden
County Size: 1,614 square miles
Low Elevation: 7,735 ft. - North Platte River on the WY border
High Elevation : 12,951 ft. - Clark Peak
Best Birds : Harlequin Duck (1976), Magnificent Hummigbird (1980)
Checklist : Download pdf | View HTML
Introduction: Jackson County is essentially synonymous with North Park. The floor of this mountain park is predominantly sagebrush, but contains numerous lakes and ponds, which can make for excellent water-birding. It is also probably the easiest place in the state to see Greater Sage-Grouse. The mountains that ring the valley on three sides provide the county with tremendous habitat diversity. No question about it: this county does not get as much birding traffic as it deserves!
Description - Though fairly steep sided for the most part, this seldom-visited reservoir has lots of potential. Check for shorebirds when the water is sufficiently low. Ducks can be numerous during spring and fall migrations, and this is one of the select few lakes in the state with a breeding population of American White Pelicans. The extensive sage along the drive in has multiple Greater Sage-Grouse leks, and your chances of just running into one during a spring morning are quite high.
Caution is warranted in accessing this site - the road in is rutted (barely passable in a passenger car), and portions don't melt off until mid-April. Even from then until May is can be very muddy, so be careful.
Habitat - reservoir, sagebrush
Directions - from Walden, travel south on SR-125 to CR 28 and take a right (west). Go about 2.3 miles to a two-track on the right. Follow this for approximately 4 miles, following signs for "MacFarlane Reservoir Access" to the reservoir.
Delorme - 17 D7
Roads of Colorado - 38 B3
Description - This gorgeous high-mountain lake is not particularly good birding itself, but the trail to the lake passes through excellent spruce-fir forest and willow carrs, with all the benefits thereof. Pine Grosbeak, Cassin's Finch, Dusky Grouse, American Three-toed Woodpecker, and others are possible. The ridge above Lake Katherine can be good for Brown-capped Rosy-Finch and White-tailed Ptarmigan during the summer months, but be prepared for a tough hike if you attempt this.
Habitat - Spruce-Fir forest, Streamside Willow, Alpine Tundra
Directions - from just south of Walden travel west on CR 12W, being sure to stay on this road at all the intersections. At a "T", take a left onto CR 16 and go 7 miles to the trailhead. Lake Katherine is about 2.5 miles up the trail, keeping left at both forks in the trail.
Delorme - 17 C4-5
Roads of Colorado - 21 E1
Hebron Waterfowl Area
Aliases - Hebron Slough, Eighteen Islands Reservoir, Jackson County Road 34
Description - The Hebron Waterfowl Area, along Jackson CR 34, is an excellent spot to look for ducks, shorebirds, terns, and who knows what else. The shallow Eighteen Islands Reservoir is excellent for shorebirds and ducks, depending on water level. The large pond just west of here is better for ducks, and can have Black and Forster's Terns flying around. The Hebron Slough, just east of Eighteen Islands Reservoir, is fairly small, but should be checked for shorebirds and ducks.
County Road 34 can also be good for sparrows, including Lark Buntings, especially towards the western end. Keep an eye out for Greater Sage-Grouse in the sage flats along the eastern end of the road. Raptors abound along this road as well, with Swainson's and Rough-legged Hawks (depending on season), Prairie Falcon and Golden Eagle possible.
Habitat - reservoir, slough, sagebrush, agricultural
Directions - County Road 34 can be reached by either driving south from Walden on SR-125 for about 10 miles and turning right (west), or driving south on SR-14 for 17 miles and turning left (east). Hebron Waterfowl Area is about mid-way along this road. CR 34 is about 17 miles north of Muddy Pass along SR-14, and about 22 miles north of Willow Creek Pass along SR-125
Delorme - 17 D6-7
Roads of Colorado - 38 A2-3
Seymour Reservoir SWA
Description - While this small reservoir pales in comparison to other North Park lakes, it is still worth a check if you are in the area. It can be fairly good for ducks, and shorebirds can be found if the reservoir is low enough to produce mudflats. CR 28, to the north of the reservoir, can be a great place to look for Greater Sage-Grouse, especially in the mid-morning during the lekking season, when birds are flying from the leks to feeding areas.
Habitat - reservoir, sagebrush
Directions - from Walden, head south on SR-14 for 18 miles to CR 11, and turn left. Head east on CR 11 for 1 mile and bear right at the fork. Continue for about 2.5 miles to another fork and bear left on CR 11A. The turnoff for Seymour is on the left shortly. To birding CR 28, bear left at the first fork 1 mile from SR-125
Delorme - 27 A6
Roads of Colorado - 38 A3
Pole Mountain Reservoir
Description - This small reservoir is among the best in the county to look for breeding ducks, and is likely quite good during fall migration as well. Nearly every duck species that breeds in North Park is found in numbers here, along with Eared and Western Grebes. Buffleheads can be found here during the summer, though it is unlikely they breed here. During fall migration look for divers and loons, and possibly gulls. Shorebirds are possible when the water level is sufficiently low.
Habitat - reservoir
Directions - from Walden, head south on SR-14 for 13 miles to CR 24 and turn right (west). Follow CR 24 for a little over 2.5 miles and turn left on CR 26. Follow CR 26 for a mile and turn right on CR 26A. Follow this road for 2 miles to the reservoir, on the left.
Delorme - 17 D6
Roads of Colorado - 37 F3
Pinkham Creek Road
Description - This remote road into the Medicine Bow Mountains in northeastern Jackson county passes through lots of lodgepole forest. But don't despair - there is some spruce-fir and aspen mixed in. Look for species such as Dusky Grouse, Evening Grosbeak, Red Crossbill, Clark's Nutcracker, and other mountain specialties. Along Pinkham Creek look in the willows for Lincoln's and Fox Sparrows, and Willow Flycatcher among other willow specialties.
Habitat - lodgepole, mixed conifer, willow carr
Directions - from the junction of SR-125 and SR-127, head north on SR-127 for 3.5 miles to CR 46. Turn right and follow this road as it enters the Routt National Forest. At the fork at 3.3 miles bear right to stay along Pinkham Creek, or left to continue up to the Larimer County line on the ridge of the Medicine Bows.
Delorme - 18 A1
Roads of Colorado - 22 B4-C4
Encampment River Valley
Aliases - Big Creek Lakes
Description - The mountain forests in this area--mostly lodgepole--are great for many mountain species, such as Pine Grosbeak and Williamson's Sapsucker, and the willow riparian habitat can have the normal willow breeding species, including Willow Flycatcher along 6A before Big Creek Lakes, where Osprey breeds.
Habitat - Lodgepole Forest, Streamside Riparian, Mountain Meadow, Pond/Lake/Reservoir
Directions - Note: distances are approximate. Ah, another extremely remote mountain birding area! This area is reached by going west from the intersection of CR 6W and state route 125 on CR 6W (main street in Cowdrey) for 38 or so miles. There are a myriad of intersections along the route, so make sure you stay on 6W. At around 19 miles along CR 6W turn left on county road 6A (FR 600), which will take you to Big Creek Lakes. If you are so inclined, you can turn right a half mile before Big Creek Lakes and follow FR 689 to FR 681 to FR 80 to the Wyoming border.
Delorme - 16-17 A3-A5
Roads of Colorado - 21 D3-F4
Aspen Grove along Jackson CR 6W
Description - This small, isolated grove of aspen trees can be good for Red-naped Sapsucker and possibly other mountain landbirds. You might have a flock of Pinyon Jays fly overhead, as we did in August of 2001...but don't count on it.
Habitat - Aspen Grove, Grassland/Prairie
Directions - This aspen grove is along CR 6W around 14 miles from the intersection of CR 6W with state route 125 in Cowdrey.
Delorme - 17 A5
Roads of Colorado - 21 F4
Willow Swamp along CO 127
Description - Not far from the Wyoming border you will notice a side road heading east along the edge of a willow swamp. Look for Dusky Flycatcher, MacGillivray's Warbler and associated birds. While you're at it, check the adjacent forest for the likes of Red Crossbill.
Habitat - Streamside Willow, Lodgepole Forest
Directions - The swamp is along CR 71 about 1 mile from the Wyoming border along CO 127, and a little more than 8 miles from the intersection of state routes 127 and 125.
Delorme - 18 A1
Roads of Colorado - 22 B3
Description - The town may not look like much, but the ponds beside it on either side of CR 6W can be great for blackbirds, gulls, ducks and occasionally shorebirds. The resident Sora has been known to take strolls down Main Street in broad daylight, so keep an eye out. A mile or so west along 6W lies a farm at a stream crossing which invariably hosts mixed-species flocks of swallows during the warmer months.
Habitat - Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Marsh, Streamside Willow, Stream, Grassland/Prairie
Directions - Cowdrey is along CO 125 nine miles north of Walden. The best viewing point for the ponds is along CR 6W, which is main street in Cowdrey, just west of the town center.
Delorme - 18 A1
Roads of Colorado - 22 A4-B4
Cowdrey Lake State Wildlife Area
Description - When not busy with boaters, this lake can be productive for waterbirds, including mixed flocks of geese, diving ducks and even loons in season. There is a nice patch of thick vegetation along its southeast corner, which attracts migrants. A Northern Waterthrush, probably from the breeding population in North Park, was seen here in August 2001.
Habitat - Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Hedgerow/Shelterbelt
Directions - Cowdrey Lake is just west of CO 125 along CR 39 (unmarked, but there is a large green SWA sign marking the entrance) 1.5 miles south of Cowdrey, and 7.5 miles north of Walden.
Delorme - 17 B7
Roads of Colorado - 22 B4
Lake John State Wildlife Area and Alkali Lake
Aliases - Alkali Lake
Description - Lake John is the best lake in the county for diving ducks, with good numbers and variety during migration. Keep an eye out for raptors, as we have had both Golden Eagle and Ferruginous Hawk here. Alkali Lake, across the road from Lake John, is difficult to access and occasionally goes dry, but it can be good for waterbirds, and Mountain Plover has bred nearby.
Habitat - Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Sagebrush
Directions - From Walden, take CO 125 to the south end of town and follow it as it bends west. Where 125 bends south again in about a mile, go straight (west) onto CR 12W. Follow CR 12W for 10 miles to the intersection with CR 7. Bear right (north) onto CR 7 and go north for a little more than 5 miles to the entrance to the SWA on the left (CR 7A). The lake itself is best viewed from various spots along CR 7A about 2 miles from the intersection with CR 7. From Cowdrey, take CR 6W (main street) west for 8 miles to the intersection with CR 7, and go left (south) for 5 miles to the intersection with CR 7A and the entrance to the SWA. Alkali Lake is east of CR 7, 5 miles south of the intersection with CR 7A. There is a small dirt two-track along a fence line down to the lake.
Delorme - 17 B6
Roads of Colorado - 37 F1, 38 A1
Delaney Butte Lakes State Wildlife Area
Description - These mountain lakes often have few waterbirds other than grebes, but sometimes they come through with good numbers of diving ducks and loons. The pond south of the butte and west of the lakes often has numerous dabblers and snipe. The fields to the south and east should be checked at dusk for Short-eared Owl.
Habitat - Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Streamside Willow, Wet Meadow, Sagebrush
Directions - From the intersection of CR 12W and CO 125 one mile south of Walden, take CR 12W a little more than 5 miles to the intersection with CR 18. Continue west onto CR 18 for 4.5 miles and bear right onto CR 22. Continue north on CR 22 for .5 miles to CR 5, and take a left and then an almost immediate right onto CR 5A to scan the west side of South Delaney Lake. To scan the east side of the lake, go right onto CR 5 from CR 22, go 0.8 miles to CR 5D on your left, and scan the lake from along CR 5D. To get to East Delaney Lake, turn right onto a small dirt road leading to a parking lot just past the intersection with CR 5D. To scan North Delaney Lake, go 1.2 miles from the intersection of CR 5 and CR 22 to CR 5C and take a left. Go 0.5 miles to CR 5B and scan the lake from along this road and from the parking lot just east of the intersection of CR 5B and 5C. To reach the small pond, turn left at the intersection of CR 5 and 22 and go about .5 miles and over a cattle guard. The pond is on the left.
Delorme - 17 C6
Roads of Colorado - 37 F1-F2, 38 A1-A2
Description - This lake typically stands head and shoulders above the other lakes in the county with regards to bird numbers and variety. Walden usually has a little of everything: dabblers, divers, shorebirds, larids, and waders. It has produced a summer record of Little Gull, and fall shorebird surveys have thrice turned up Short-billed Dowitcher. Birds such as American White Pelican, Black Tern, and Franklin's and California Gulls breed nowhere else, or nearly nowhere else, in the state.
Habitat - Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Sagebrush
Directions - From the intersection of CR 12W and CO 125 just south of Walden, go west on CR 12W and take the first right onto CR 15. The lake can be scanned from various points along CR 15. There are also some small ponds along CR 12W both east and west of the intersection with CR 15.
Delorme - 17 C7
Roads of Colorado - 38 A1-B1
Description - The county seat and largest town, Walden is home to a few birds that can be hard to find elsewhere in Jackson County, including Eurasian Collared-Dove and Rock Dove (rare). The trees in town can have migrants in season. Hummingbird feeders can attract four species in late summer, and rosy-finches occasionally visit feeders here in winter.
Habitat - Urban/Suburban
Directions - Walden is at the junctions of State Highways 14 and 125, between Steamboat Springs and Fort Collins.
Delorme - 17 C7
Roads of Colorado - 38 B1
Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge
Description - Aside from the numerous lakes and ponds, which provide ample habitat for ducks, shorebirds and the Peregrine Falcons that eat them, this refuge is also THE place in Colorado to find Greater Sage-Grouse outside the lekking season. Driving the refuge road at dawn or dusk gives you nearly even odds of finding these magnificent birds. However, note that the road is seasonally closed.
URL - Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge
Habitat - Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Marsh, Sagebrush
Directions - The entrance to the auto route is on the west side of CO 125 four miles south of Walden, and 28.5 miles north of the Grand/Jackson county line. There is a small kiosk just off 125 marking the beginning of the auto route. The entire length of the auto route provides good looks at many lakes.
Delorme - 17 C7
Roads of Colorado - 38 B2
Description - If you ARE in North Park between late March and mid-May, don't miss the spectacle of fifty Greater Sage-Grouse males bouncing, bubbling and popping their way into the females' hearts. The "thundercluckers" are somewhat accustomed to viewers, but please take every precaution to keep from disturbing them. According to recent reports, the road into the lek parking lot is no longer open, so the birds must be observed more distantly from CR 26.
Habitat - Sagebrush
Directions - From the intersection of state routes 14 and 125 a little over a mile south of Walden, go 14.5 miles south on 14 to CR 26 (26A). Take a right (west) onto CR 26 and go a little over 1.5 miles to a dirt track leading 100 yards north to a large parking lot. The lek is to the N of the parking lot, and can be seen well from your car. CR 26 is 18.5 miles north of the intersection of CO 14 and US 40 near Muddy Pass.
Delorme - 17 D6
Roads of Colorado - 37 F3, 38 A3
Description - An exceptionally good area for high mountain specialties, with breeding Pine Grosbeaks, Williamson's Sapsuckers, Olive-sided Flycatchers, Gray Jays, Golden-crowned Kinglets, etcetera. It is a good alternate route between Walden and Steamboat.
Habitat - Spruce-Fir Forest, Aspen Grove, Mountain Meadow
Directions - From Walden go a little over a mile south on CO 125 and take a right (west) onto CO 14. Go 11.5 miles to the intersection with CR 24 and take a right (west). The summit of Buffalo Pass is 17 miles west of CO 14 on CR 24. Be sure to bird the spectacular mountain habitat on the way up to the pass. From Steamboat Springs (Routt), go north on 6th Street, bear right at the first fork onto Laurel St., and right at the second fork onto Park Ave. Take Park Ave. to a " T" and go left onto North Park Rd. Follow North Park Rd. as it becomes Routt CR 36 and go 1.7 miles north to the intersection with Routt CR 38. Go right onto CR 38 and follow it 11 miles to the summit of the pass.
Delorme - 17 D4
Roads of Colorado - 37 E3
Willow Creek Pass
Description - Much like Buffalo Pass, except that we've had better luck with finches here, including Red Crossbill, Evening Grosbeak and Cassin's Finch, and we have yet to miss Gray Jay from the road.
Habitat - Lodgepole Forest, Mixed Conifer Forest, Streamside Willow, Wet Meadow
Directions - Willow Creek Pass is along CO 125 on the Jackson/Grand county line, 32.5 miles south of Walden and 21.5 miles north of the intersection with US route 40 near Granby (Grand). Be sure to check the habitat along the side roads off 125 just north of the pass.
Delorme - 28 B2
Roads of Colorado - 38 C4
Jackson County Road 30
Description - The willows between Highway 14 and the private Meadow Creek Reservoir are reliable for Veery during the summer months. The road continues past the reservoir through some decent sage, lodgepole and willow habitats.
Habitat - Streamside Willow, Mountain Meadow, Sagebrush, Lodgepole Forest
Directions - CR 30 heads north from CO 14 approximately 21 miles east of Walden.
Delorme - 18 C2-D2
Roads of Colorado - 38 C2
Colorado State Forest State Park
Aliases - Moose Visitor Center
Description - This state park with the unwieldy name has some excellent birding potential. Two areas are of particular interest. The first is the road to North Michigan Reservoir (entry fee), which passes through some nice lodgepole forest and provides access to a great deal of beautiful willow habitat on the way to the reservoir that probably has Fox Sparrow and Veery. The stream below the dam looks decent for dippers.
The second spot in the park worth visiting is the Moose Visitor Center, a little farther east on Highway 14. It is open year-round. The feeders in back can be great for finches, including Red Crossbill, Cassin's Finch, Pine Grosbeak and, in winter, rosy-finches. In summer Fox Sparrow breeds in the willows beyond, and Red-naped Sapsucker is reliable. While you're there, check out the visitor center's terrific exhibits and have the rangers point you in the direction of recent moose sightings.
Habitat - Lodgepole Forest, Streamside Willow, Stream, Streamside Willow
Directions - The road to North Michigan Reservoir heads north from CO 14 about 30 miles east of Walden at the KOA campground. The Moose Visitor Center is roughly another eight miles east on the south side of the highway.
Delorme - 18 D2-3
Roads of Colorado - 39 D2
Description - Ah, the legendary Cameron Pass!--site of many a frigid midnight stroll, tape player in one hand, flashlight in the other, in search of the mythical Boreal Owl. We cannot possibly overstate the amount of luck required even to hear, much less see, this sought-after bird. Those who have returned with stories of amazing close-up encounters are to be mistrusted; if your experience is like theirs, we shall be very angry with you. However, if you do wish to try your luck, the following advice is in order. First, be prepared to begin well after dusk and finish long before dawn, as Boreals are true middle-of-the-night owls. Second, tapes are of very limited use in spring (March-early May), when birds are unlikely to respond. Instead, drive the road, stopping every quarter mile and listening carefully for five to ten minutes, as the birds will often wait long periods between calls. Tapes DO seem to be helpful in late summer and fall, when owls will respond to them with a loud, sharply downslurred "skiew" call and sometimes a close approach. The questions of clear skies vs. cloudy and new moon vs. full do not seem to be terribly important, but a calm night is essential if you are to have any hope of hearing the birds, or of them hearing you. Boreal Owl territory in Jackson County starts around the turnoff to a campground below the road on the right and continues approximately three miles up to the summit of the pass.
Habitat - Spruce-Fir Forest, Stream
Directions - Cameron Pass is along CO 14, 31 miles east of Walden, and 59 miles west of the intersection of CO 14 with US 287 in Ted's Place (Larimer County).
Delorme - 18 D3
Roads of Colorado - 39 D3
Aliases - Michigan Ditch
Description - Although Jackson County contains plenty of tundra, none of it is accessible by road. That means ptarmigan-seekers have no other option in this county but to hike. One of the easier ways to get above treeline in the county is by following the Michigan Ditch south from Cameron Pass to a trail which leads up to three gorgeous alpine lakes in the shadow of the Nokhu Crags. These three lakes are called the American Lakes or the Michigan Lakes, depending on the map you're looking at; the largest and highest of them is often called Snow Lake. Brown-capped Rosy-Finch breeds on the cliffs around Snow Lake, about four miles from Cameron Pass. Look for ptarmigan in the grassier areas above the other two lakes, and typical spruce-fir birds along the rest of the trail.
Habitat - Spruce-Fir Forest, Krummholz, Alpine Tundra, Cliff Face, Stream, Streamside Willow, Mountain Meadow
Directions - Park at Cameron Pass. Hike south along the dirt road beside the canal (the Michigan Ditch) about two miles to where it meets the Michigan River; from there follow the trail up the valley about another two miles to the lakes.
Delorme - 18 D3, 28 D3-D4
Roads of Colorado - 39 D3