Colorado’s First Wetland Mitigation Project – Limon Wetlands

by Heather Kallevig

Limon Wetlands - Limon, Colorado

(c) 2015 Heather Kallevig

If you’re driving across the US and looking for a great place to stop near the interstate in Eastern Colorado, Limon is an ideal choice for a brief respite from your day in the car.  This is especially true if you enjoy visiting pockets of nature and seeing birds you’re unlikely to find elsewhere.

We recently moved from Indiana to California, and during our drive we would look for fun and unique locations to take a walk away from the cities and see the local landscape, plants, and wildlife.  On our drive from Kansas to Salt Lake City, we chose to stop at the Limon Wetlands on the Colorado Birding Trail.  This area is a great place to stretch your legs, learn a little, and maybe even see some wildlife.   The Limon Wetlands are also very accessible, just beyond the Doug Kissel Fishing Ponds.  They begin in a parking lot near the railroad on the outer part of town.  Simply cross through the tunnel under the tracks and continue on a paved trail to an unanticipated veritable birding sanctuary.

Limon Wetlands - Limon, Colorado

(c) 2015 Heather Kallevig

Once inside the park, a gazebo provides shade while also sheltering fascinating info boards about the area and the wildlife who depend on its protection.  During our stop we added two new birds to our list – the yellow-headed blackbird and an American Bittern.  We also saw a muskrat.  Other lucky visitors may see turtles, belted kingfishers, Great-headed Grackles, the Ruddy Duck, and an occasional coyote.

Limon Wetlands - Limon, Colorado

(c) 2015 Heather Kallevig

Not only are the Limon Wetlands beautiful and full of nature.  They also have an interesting history of cooperation, restoration, and innovation.  The wetlands are a result of collaboration between local, state, and federal agencies.  Originating as a 14-acre sewage run-off area, the region was altered in tandem with a similar mitigation or restoration project which reclaimed a closed local landfill for parks and bike paths.  As this project was under construction, Warren Cummings, a state wildlife officer proposed turning the nearby sewage run-off area into a wildlife wetlands habitat.  The town leaders partnered with the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Federal Highway Administration to create Colorado’s first wetland mitigation park.

Limon Wetlands - Limon, Colorado

(c) 2015 Heather Kallevig

The two year project, completed in 1998, resulted in four ponds of varying depths and vegetations on the 14 acre lot.  These ponds are fed by the city’s wastewater treatment, ensuring the ecosystem is maintained for the health of local and migratory species.  The successful transformation of this parcel of land into valuable habitat is a useful story for environmentalists everywhere, proving you can create something beautiful for humans, plants, and animals even in nonideal circumstances – like being connected to a landfill, beside the railroad tracks, and supported by wastewater.  The success of this mitigation project bodes well for wildlife, birders, locals, and travelers.  We certainly enjoyed it, and will never forget the unique beauty of its most famous tenant – the flocks of yellow-headed blackbirds.

Limon Wetlands - Limon, Colorado

(c) 2015 Heather Kallevig

Directions:  Finding the Limon Wetlands can be a bit tricky, however, if you head toward the railroad tracks and keep an eye out for the large grain elevator labeled “Limon” you’ll do fine.  Just keep an eye out for the parking lot and the tunnel.

Resources:

Colorado Birding Trail

Colorado Riparian Association

 

Article also posted at hiddengemsvoyager.com

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