The Bluff Lake Nature Center occupies 123 acres adjacent to Sand Creek on
the eastern edge of the old Stapleton Airport property. It offers a
variety of native habitats including a seasonal lake, wetlands, short-grass
prairie, a riparian zone and forest. Thanks to its 60 year history as an
airport buffer, Bluff Lake has become an urban wildlife refuge for
waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, songbirds, deer, fox, reptiles, amphibians
and other types of wildlife that visit or live at the site.
Bluff Lake Nature Center is much more than a place for plants and
animals. It is also an outdoor classroom for thousands of kindergarten
through fourth grade students each year. It is an oasis in the city where
people can come to view wildlife, appreciate the peaceful sights and sounds
of nature, and enjoy the company of family and friends.
Weekend and evening programs give people a chance to learn more about this
unique and special place.
Bluff Lake is a featured stop along the Sand Creek Regional Greenway and an
important part of the new Stapleton development's open space system. Once
school groups and other visitors leave the bluff and walk down into the
basin, they enter a small but authentic slice of nature literally hidden
from the surrounding urban world. Because that part of the property is
managed primarily for wildlife, no motor vehicles, bicycles, dogs or horses
Bluff Lake is owned by the Denver Department of Aviation and managed by a
501 (c)(3) non-profit organization also the Bluff Lake Nature Center. The
organization's mission is to "foster lifelong learning and environmental
stewardship at a unique urban wildlife refuge."
Bluff Lake was originally constructed as an irrigation reservoir in the
late 1800s. In the mid-1990s, it was recognized and protected by a consent
decree that settled a lawsuit related to pollution at Stapleton
Airport. The non-profit organization grew up around the belief that Bluff
Lake was an urban resource that could become even more valuable if managed
specifically for its wildlife and educational benefits. Bluff Lake Nature
Center receives about half of its funding from the Department of Aviation
and the other half from government and private sources. Volunteer support
plays a major role in managing the site and providing excellent educational
Bluff Lake Nature Center
Design by Jody Chapel
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