By Suzanne Webel
Imagine, if you can, an enormous new open space property… one at the scenic junction between mountains and plains, with a river running through it… one that contains a variety of wildlife including nesting golden eagles and Preble’s Meadow Jumping mice… one that was purchased in 2001 and opened to the public less than four years later, with more than five miles of new trails… one whose managers solicited equestrian expertise before building the trail system… one whose managers are carefully protecting wildlife habitat while simultaneously welcoming the public to experience its wonders.
Yep, it’s probably hard for Boulder County residents to imagine, because things just don’t ever seem to play out that way in the People’s Republic. Indeed, most of our recent public land acquisitions are squirreled away quietly or were never intended for public access in the first place. Elsewhere, of course, public land managers have figured out how to balance preservation and recreation without subjecting the matter to endless and acrimonious debate, and they believe that the public is entitled to reasonable access to the lands it purchased. So, yep, you guessed it –you’ll have to head on up north of the border into Larimer County west of Ft. Collins to experience their latest sensation, the Eagle’s Nest Open Space.
Proceed northwest through Ft. Collins on Hwy 287 to Livermore. Turn west on the Red Feathers Lakes Road (CR 74E), 0.3 mi to the Eagle’s Nest entrance road (after the fire station). The trailhead is about a mile down the road.
Here’s what Larimer County Parks and Open Lands has to say about this property: “When you step out of your car at the Eagle’s Nest Open Space you are surrounded by a classic western landscape. The vast panorama presents the high mountain country, mesas, red sandstone rims, craggy granite cliffs, rolling grasslands and the North Fork of the Poudre River meandering through the valley below. Eagle’s Nest Open Space is managed for wildlife, recreation, and grazing.… If you come to ride there is ample horse trailer parking at the south side of the trailhead (please remove road apples from the parking lot before you leave), and the trails provide a nice variety of terrain with a place to water your horse at the river just west of the bridge.… In keeping with the long ranching history of the Livermore area we have named the trails after the brands used here in the 1870’s. There is a grazing lease on this open space… and you may pass through a herd of the long horned Corriente cattle, which are popular for roping. Please close and latch gates as you pass from one pasture to the next… Don’t pass up a chance to linger on the river bridge and stare into the crystal water.”
I called Larimer County to inquire about the trails and the eagles, in particular. Turns out the eagles were not in the least bit concerned about the new trails built near their aerie, trails which opened to the public in the spring of 2005 during the middle of the raptor nesting season: they successfully hatched and fledged three young birds, an even better success than before the trails were built (when their nest success history was erratic). Hear, hear!
Total Distance: “3-Bar” Trail, 3.0 mi. loop and connection; “Oh-Tee” Trail, 1.8 mi. loop.
Total Time: Approx. 2 hours
Jurisdiction: Larimer County Parks and Open Lands, 970-679-4570.
Maps: Brochure provided at trailhead.