The canyon is an area of mixed habitats: shortgrass prairie with scattered pinon-juniper woodlands, limestone breaks, red sandstone cliffs, cottonwood riparian zones, some aspen, a basalt ridge along the south, and a series of side canyons along the Purgatoire River.
Lake Dorothey/James M. John State Wildlife Areas
|Description: These adjacent state wildlife areas rise up the east side of Raton Mesa from the High Plains of southeastern Colorado to Fisher’s Peak at 10,000 feet in elevation. Lake Dorothey is a 10-acre reservoir stocked with sport fish. Willow riparian habitats with New Mexico locust along the stream near the Lake Dorothey parking lot and downstream from the dam. Willows grow along drainages off the backside of Fisher’s Peak. Moving up the mesa, habitats include pinon-juniper woodlands interspersed with grassy meadows, oakbrush, and stands of ponderosa pine, aspen and spruce/fir forest. On top is tallgrass mountain meadow. Auto access through New Mexico into a parking lot at Lake Dorothey SWA.|
Wildlife to Watch: Good chance of seeing migrating raptors, particularly Swainson’s hawks. Peregrine falcons and golden eagles nest on the mesa’s rocky cliffs. Goshawks seen regularly. Riparian areas near the lake good for warblers, wood pewees, vireos, and lesser goldfinches. Watch open areas for western and mountain bluebirds, green-tailed towhees. Only confirmed sited in Colorado for acorn woodpeckers. Best chance of seeing large mammals, including mule deer, elk, mountain lions, and black bears, is on Raton Mesa. Wild turkeys in riparian areas and ponderosa pine forests. Blue grouse at higher elevations.
Special Tips: Access to James M. John SWA by foot and horseback only.
Other Activities: Horsetrails on site.
Size: 13,000 acres
Closest Town: Raton, New Mexico, 12 miles
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: