Spring has arrived in Boulder County and our open space is bustling with activity. As the temperatures warm and the days lengthen, both residents and visitors are hitting the trails with ever-increasing frequency. No longer weighed down by winter clothing and gear, everyone is happy to be outside and savoring the season.
Our plants and animals feel the same way. Spring awakens the local wildlife and attracts migrants from near and far. The creeks are flowing with fervor as ponds swell with snowmelt and rain. The grasses have greened while wildflowers provide bursts of color. Bare trees are now lush and leafy. The animals are getting busy, too. Quite literally. As spring descends, food is now plentiful and conditions are ideal for mating. Cue the singing, nesting, and adorable child rearing.
There is no better place to watch this flurry of activity than at Walden Ponds Wildlife Habitat. Local enthusiasts have long known it’s one of the best wildlife watching spots in the county, if not the entire state.
Owned and maintained by Boulder County Parks and Open Space, this land was once a dry prairie. But in the 1950’s, local development spurred a demand for gravel. Walden (and the neighboring Sawhill Ponds) became the site of a large gravel mining operation. When the mine closed in the 1970’s, leaving behind dozens of pits filled with groundwater, the county worked to preserve the space and convert it into a wetlands habitat. Today, Walden Ponds is an amazing example of how nature can reclaim habitat and support new life with a little help from the human community.
The name “Walden Ponds” may conjure up images of Thoreau in his cabin in the woods, but it was actually named after Boulder County Commissioner, Walden “Wally” Toevs. The Thoreau connotation feels appropriate, however, as Boulder’s Walden Ponds offers us a respite from civilized life and an opportunity to connect with the natural world. Read on for your guide to this unique Boulder County space.
Dogs are permitted at Walden Ponds but must remain on leash. Fishing regulations may be found here.
Please note that two sections of trail at Walden Ponds are under repair and closed until June 2016. Consult the map and heed all closures.
Walden Ponds may be accessed from three parking areas, the Cottonwood Marsh lot, the Wally Toevs lot, and the Heatherwood lot. All are located on the west side of 75th Street between Valmont and Jay Road. The trailhead features picnic tables, group shelters, plus restrooms at Cottonwood Marsh and Wally Toevs Pond. Cottonwood Marsh also offers a short but beautiful boardwalk that kids (and adults) are sure to love.
There are 3.5 miles of trail at Walden Ponds, including the Heatherwood Trail. Hikers will find several possible loops and routes at Walden, with the shortest being less than one mile. The trails are flat with virtually no elevation gain. Suffice it to say, Walden is a welcome meander compared to the grueling climbs found elsewhere in our open space. A hike at Walden is suitable for all ages and most fitness levels.
As you walk, be sure to look up, down, and all around. Don’t forget to pack your binoculars and camera. Walden is home to a variety of plant and animal life. Dragonflies and butterflies flit overhead. Turtles sunbathe at the water’s edge and frogs croak from under the muck. Rabbits scurry from shrub to shrub and coyote may be on the hunt for them.
Birds can be seen everywhere, especially in spring. A two-hour stroll may produce sightings of goldfinches, warblers, swallows, great blue heron, pelicans, and hawks. Osprey are known to nest here annually. Take your time, soak it all in, and enjoy. You’ll want to return to Walden Ponds again and again. Each visit yields new discoveries.
Happy trails, Boulderites!