The trail at Sawhill Ponds is particularly unique because it encircles a wetlands habitat not typically found on the dry Colorado plains. The ponds are, in fact, human-made.
What began as a gravel mining operation is now a protected area for wildlife and public recreation. The trail may not provide a strenuous workout, but it does provide fantastic opportunities for wildlife watching, nature photography, and quiet reflection.
A peaceful walk at Sawhill Ponds, against the backdrop of the sweeping plains and the rising foothills, is something to be savored. Let’s get to know this remarkable Boulder gem.
Today, Sawhill Ponds is comprised of 18 individual ponds. But in its former life, it was a collection of sand and gravel pits. Gravel was mined here for several decades until operations ceased in the early 1970’s. As groundwater began filling the abandoned pits, locals were inspired to reclaim the area and convert it into a wildlife habitat.
The Sawhill Ponds Trailhead is on 75th Street between Valmont and Jay Roads. Drive down the gravel road (go slowly because wildlife is often nearby) to the parking lot. Picnic tables and restrooms are available.
Sawhill Ponds is home to an array of plant and animal life because it has something for (almost) everyone. The nearby plains serve as a hunting ground for coyotes and foxes. Looming cottonwood trees provide shelter for a variety of birds and insects. Marsh plants constitute food for numerous waterfowl. And, of course, the water itself sustains all of this life. Birds of prey, migrating songbirds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish – they all make their home here.
As a result of this rich biodiversity, wildlife watching at Sawhill Ponds is top notch. Every visit yields something new and exciting, and the area is transformed with every season. Spring is particularly rich in bird watching opportunities, with water-seeking warblers descending in droves. Be sure to stop by the bird blind to sit and watch the swallows (the fighter jets of the bird world) as they dart manically over the water in search of insects. Summer is a sweet time for fishing at Sawhill. The city stocks the ponds with bass, sunfish, bluegill, and carp. Be sure to familiarize yourself with local fishing regulations before heading out.
The Sawhill Pond Trail is a 1.8-mile loop with minimal elevation gain. You will see ponds on both sides of the trail as you move along, as well as sweeping panoramas of both the prairie and the mountains. For additional mileage, include the trails at the adjacent Walden Ponds (maintained by Boulder County).
With its unique history and incredible biodiversity, Sawhill Ponds is a place unlike any other in our city’s open space. Now that you know all about it, you’ve got to go and experience it for yourself. Happy trails, Boulderites!
Photo Credit: © Alli Fronzaglia for Your Boulder — all rights reserved. Images may not be used or copied without express written permission.