Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bobcat Ridge Natural Area

Head west on Harmony Road, and you’ll eventually end up at Horsetooth Reservoir, one of the crown jewels of outdoor recreation along the Front Range. But continue past the res, hang a left at Masonville, and you’ll soon come across another impressive gem tucked back among the foothills: the Bobcat Ridge Natural Area.

My first glimpse of Bobcat was through the windows of a school bus, as a parent chaperone on my younger son’s pre-eco-week field trip. I had expected a nature area akin to the part of Coyote Ridge that is visible from Taft Hill Road—specifically a trail and a ridge—so I was surprised to find a picturesque farmhouse and agrarian outbuildings right there by the parking lot. I therefore deduced—because I’m smart like that, you know—that Bobcat Ridge apparently had more to offer than just some nice day hikes.

We spent a few hours in the company of some of Larimer County’s volunteer naturalists, who instructed the roving bands of students in the basics of the geology, topography, biology, and ecology of the area. It was interactive fun that kept us interested and engaged, but it wasn’t until I got home and visited the county’s Bobcat Ridge webpage that I realized what a long and fascinating history the area has. (And, yes, I wish I would have done it before I went.)

Carol Tunner (hey, I just met her a couple of weeks ago at the Coke sign) has compiled an amazingly comprehensive history of the area dating back to the very first Native American settlers. Along with geological and ecological information, Pieces of the Past: The Story of Bobcat Ridge Natural Area details the lives of the families who settled in and around the area. The pictures, maps, and excerpts from interviews make for a fascinating look at early farming, ranching, and mining life in Larimer County.



As far as animals go, a stampeding herd of fifth-graders was an effective wildlife deterrent, but Bobcat Ridge is home to a variety of critters including elk, deer, bears, skunks, coyotes, and, appropriately enough, bobcats. Many of these animals have been photographed doing their thing by the eight heat/motion sensitive cameras which make up the Bobcat Ridge Natural Areas Wildlife Camera Project (a joint project with the Rocky Mountain Cat Conservancy).

If all this isn’t enough, the Bobcat Ridge webpage has even more information available, including the Bobcat Gulch Fire Report. Whether you’ve been to Bobcat before or are planning your first visit, take some time to learn a little about its history. And then get out and enjoy this amazing area.

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