Rocky Flats NWR

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Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge is a newly opened space (Fall 2018) in Jefferson county. It is easily accessible from 3 different entry points, all with ample parking. I usually go to the North entrance near 128 & McCaslin Blvd (map below).

This location has a great view of the foothills, and is a wonderful place to go and enjoy a Rocky Mountain sunset. I usually shoot with a wide angle lens and use the plains to lead into the foothills, and the foothills into the sky - which is the real show.

It's amazing how many distinct and unique pictures you can get through the course of one sunset. The colors change frequently as the sun sets behind the mountains. There is generally some cloud cover to be found at sunset (less so at sunrise). If you are lucky, you will get a few Lenticular clouds (the ones that look like space ships), or some Helmholtz (Wave) clouds created by the Rockies. 

If you are a fan of alpenglow, this is also a nice place to catch the sunrise. A wide angle can catch the sun hitting the Foothills from Arvada to the Flatirons in Boulder. I find the winter my favorite time of year for these shots, as the sun's angle in the morning creates a deep magenta glow on the mountains.

The land is flat and open, and not a lot of other subjects to be found. There is however a windmill farm nearby that can serve as a nice subject with a zoom lens. There are also some canyons that create nice natural leading lines into the foothills. Also the occasional tree and shrubbery that can be good subjects.

Lindsay Ranch is also on the property. It is about a 2.5 mile hike from the main entrance. There is a creek, a pond, and a lot of opportunity to frame some great shots there. I think it would be a really good spot for night photography (the milky way should rise right above the barns in mid summer, and not a lot of light pollution to deal with). 

There is an Elk herd that lives in the refuge, though I've not been lucky enough to spot them yet. If you turn around and face east, you're greeted with a view of the plains and Denver. 

Getting to your shot is easy. A 5 minute walk from the parking lot is all you should really need. There are miles of trails here, though I've not walked them all, the scenery doesn't change drastically as you walk. It is very open here, and can be exceptionally hot before the sun goes down, so bring your shades and some water as you walk around and find your composition. Wind can be an issue so I always bring my tripod.

The refuge is technically open from sunrise to sunset. I've never had any issue staying for blue hour and into twilight however. It is dog friendly, so bring your travel buddy, but you will have to keep them on a leash. No drones allowed either, unfortunately.

One last thing I'll mention, this is an old SuperFund site. It was a nuclear missile factory about 30 some years ago. Some people will tell you that you should stay far away - I'll let you be the judge of that. I obviously don't pay much attention to that, pretty sure I've shot under much more risky circumstances. More information about the refuge can be found here:

Happy shooting!

- K


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