Wildlife and Habitat

The purpose of the Baca National Wildlife Refuge is to restore, enhance, and maintain habitats for wildlife plans and fish species that are native to the San Luis Valley.

Baca Refuge was established to help protect water resources in the San Luis Valley, the fragile great sand dunes ecosystem and some of the most important ecological, cultural, and wildlife resources of the Valley.  Water is the lifeblood of the San Luis Valley. The runoff from the surrounding mountains and ground water flows are crucial to the many land uses in the Valley. These waters create a network of riparian corridors and wetlands that break up large expanses of desert and upland habitats, resulting in high plant diversity. This habitat combination creates tremendous foraging and nesting opportunities for a variety of bird species and resident wildlife.

The Refuge has a diverse combination of shrublands, grasslands, wet meadows, playa wetlands, and riparian corridors. This Refuge was set aside not only as an additional haven for migratory birds and resident wildlife, but also for its importance in a broader conservation effort to protect the wildlife, habitat, and water of the northern San Luis Valley. The Refuge also contains the rich archeological telling of over 12,000 years of use by humans, including the extensive history of the famed Baca Grant Ranch.


The Valley, sitting at 7,800 feet, extends over 100 miles from north to south and 50 miles from east to west. Three mountain ranges surround the Valley – the Sangre de Christo to the east, the San Juan to the west, and the Saguache to the north. At sunset, the Sangre de Christo take on a blood red glow which inspired the Spanish explorers to name them “Blood of Christ.”

The surrounding mountains feed the arid valley with precious surface water and replenish an expansive underground reservoir. The mountain snow melt and artesian wells provide needed water to the agricultural community and to the rivers, creeks, and wetlands that thread across the valley floor.


This Refuge is one of over 560 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System – a network of lands set aside and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service specifically for wildlife. The Refuge System is a living heritage, conserving wildlife and habitat for people today and generations to come.