In the May issue of
Colorado Central Magazine

Workers with SEMA Construction install footers for a metal wildlife underpass below U.S. Hwy. 295 near Nathrop. Read about the $3.5 million project in the May print edition. Photo by Mike Rosso.

Places: The Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge

Article and photos by Anthony Guerrero

South of Monte Vista in the San Luis Valley is a prime opportunity to view nature up close. The Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge is a serene location mostly of wetlands featuring waterfowl and other water-dependent birds. The refuge is famous, hosting to up to 27,000 Sandhill Cranes every spring (Mid-March) and every fall (Mid-October) as they migrate to their northern breeding grounds.

The refuge is part of the larger San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex. More than 200 species of birds are provided feeding, resting and breeding habitats in the area. The wetlands are artificially made by using the plentiful water resources of the Valley from nearby agricultural sources, mountains, artesian wells and rivers.

In the springtime, visitors will mostly view Canada geese and ducks. Different seasons bring different species. In the summer, nesting shorebirds such as American avocets and white-faced ibis can be seen. Mostly in the fall but year-round, deer, elk, coyotes, porcupines and rabbits abound. Deer and elk seek refuge from hunters, although waterfowl and small game hunting is permitted in season. Read more



It was not going to be a great day for a road trip in the central mountain high country – one of those spring days where you can only tell the sun is shining because the dirt clouds, whirled into the air by the wind, are shimmering slightly; and gusts of that same wind nudge your car around on the road as if it were a toy. I watched one of these dirt clouds spin up into an improbably towering funnel shape the other day as I was cruising the back roads of the hamlet of Coaldale, Colorado. Finally, I spotted Alex Tonnesen, one of the owners of Western Native Seed – the man I was looking for. He appeared slightly harassed as he waved me down.

“Can we do this later?” he asked apologetically. “We had a mini-tornado come through here just as you were pulling up – tore up one of my willows in front and did in the barn door.” Read more


Q&A with author, Virginia Simmons

CCM: Did you attend college? If so, where?

VS: After attending school in New England, where regional history is pretty hard to escape, I headed west to Oberlin College, where I majored in history and discovered the fun of examining the often misleading minutiae that reveal what really happened. When I moved to Colorado in 1954, the same curiosity and tendency to pry came with me in the American West, and I also got to enjoy the great scenery and some adventures besides.

CCM: Have you ever worked as a newspaper or magazine journalist?

VS: To set the record straight, I never have been a journalist, although I worked for a newspaper and a magazine in Saudi Arabia for a couple of years as a feature writer. Those experiences were unforgettable privileges – traveling, learning and writing even in Bedouin areas and other Middle Eastern countries. The historical and travel articles I have written for newspapers, magazines and books in this part of the world have been part and parcel of the same urge to my curiosity while relating facts as truthfully as I could. Read more