Fossil Creek Open Space – Bird Sanctuary – Fort Collins, CO

Fossil Creek Reservoir Regional Open Space is a 843 acres open space located 25 minutes south of Fort Collins, Colorado near the intersection of I-25 and CO-392. Its primary purpose is to serve as a bird sanctuary leveraging its mixture of grasslands and water habitats. Specifically, the National Audubon Society has designated it as an important bird area for nesting, feeding, and roosting for both resident and migratory birds. 180 species of birds have been seen in the trees, shrubs, wetlands, open water, mud flats, and grasslands. It is recommended that visitors bring a spotting scope or binoculars.

Each of the three Fossil Creek trails features either a viewing blind or observation deck that contains information about the birds that can be seen from that vantage point. What’s more, the parking lot has a billboard that lists recent bird sitings. Further, the Fort Collins Audubon Society provides a pamphlet at the trailhead that encourages you to check off the birds you see and mail it back to them so they can better monitor bird conservation.

There are three short trails with paved concrete and loose gravel surfaces that are suitable for hikers, nordic walking, wheel chairs, and especially birders. Jogging strollers may be permitted but might be frowned upon if their noise level will scare away birds. On the other hand, bikes, leashed dogs, fishermen, horses, swimmer, boaters, hunters, and motorized vehicles are not allowed in the park. The park is a very relaxing place to walk/hike because the trails are easy and they do not allow bikes or dogs. The visitor center contains the nicest water fountains and restroom facilities of any of the open spaces I have visited. Finally, cell phone service is strong on all of the trails.

Cattail Flats Trail

The Cattail Flats trail is a 1.6 mile loop with a loose gravel surface and no elevation change. This trail is closed from November 15th to March 1st for eagle roosting.
The following picture is of the Cattail Flats wildlife viewing blind.

Heron Loop Trail

The Heron Loop trail is a 0.3 mile loop with a paved concrete surface. It features an observation deck that extends off the shoreline. This observation deck is the location of free guided eagle watches from November to March. In addition, it has multiple covered picnic tables along the trail to accommodate bird watching.
The following picture showcases the shoreline view to the west from the observation deck.

Sandpiper Trail

The Sandpiper trail is 0.5 mile trail (one -way) with a loose gravel surface and no elevation change. Like the Cattail Flats trail, it has a wildlife viewing blind. This trail is closed from March 1st to June 15th for shorebirds and waterfowl nesting.

In sum, Fossil Creek Open Space is a family friendly park with interesting interpretive signs and an opportunity to see rare birds. Cathy Fromme Prairie is another open space boasting a birding observation structure.

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