Natural Areas Enews

The Homesteading Story (+ Map) of Soapstone Prairie
A new "story map" shares pictures, words, and interactive maps to bring alive the history of homesteading at Soapstone Prairie Natural Area. The story map explains that "like the Paleo-Indians who preceded them, the homesteaders of Soapstone Prairie tried their best to survive on the land. It might be said that the land won. It might be more appropriately said that the partnership between land and humans is a fragile one, not measured by longevity, but by contributions the land makes to the human spirit."

The story map is the work of a few intrepid and deeply knowledgeable Master Naturalist volunteers who spent many hours and hiked countless miles. Special thanks to the "two Brians," Brian Carroll, Volunteer Master Naturalist and Brian Meyer, City of Fort Collins Natural Areas GIS Mapping Specialist!

Guided Ride on Bike Share Bikes

Everyone is invited to join Bike Fort CollinsPace Bike Share and City of Fort Collins Natural Areas for a two-wheeled adventure! 

Wednesday, October 10, 5- 7 p.m.

Visit three local natural areas (Ross, Fischer and Mallards Nest) with the Natural Areas Stewardship Volunteer Coordinator. Meet at the parking lot of Summitview Church (near a Pace Bike Share Station) for a 8 mile round-trip ride to Jessup Farm Barrel House for BOGO beers for bike riders! Along the way we will stop at several natural areas to learn some fun facts!

Learn more and register

What Do Goats, Trackhoes, and Helicopters Have in Common?
It may sound like an odd riddle, but goats, trackhoes, and helicopters are all habitat restoration tools. All three will be out doing their work on natural areas this fall. 

Goats will be at Salyer Natural Area to mimic native grazers such as bison, pronghorn, and elk. Their grazing reduces non-native weeds, improves grassland health, and enhances wildlife habitat. No trail closures are necessary.

Visitors to the Poudre Trail through Kingfisher Point Natural Area may notice trackhoes and other construction equipment working to connect a stretch of the Cache la Poudre River to its floodplain and improve river and wetland habitat. No trail closures are necessary. Construction and plantings will wrap-up by spring 2019.

A helicopter will aerially spray herbicide to treat the non-native weed, cheatgrass, at Soapstone Prairie Natural Area on two week days between October 15 and November 30. Soapstone Prairie will be closed the days of the treatment. When the treatment is scheduled, updates will be posted here, and on Facebook and Twitter.

Restoration projects and weed treatments are examples of how residents and the Natural Areas Department conserve and care for natural areas now and for future generations.

Rare Opportunity to Visit Soapstone Prairie After Dark
Astronomy at Soapstone Prairie – Delightful Darkness. 
Friday, October 5, 6:30 – 11:00 p.m. Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, meet at the south parking lot.
Enjoy a brief, family-friendly program followed by skygazing. Darkness benefits humans and wildlife. Learn how the City of Fort Collins is working to protect our night skies. Volunteers from the Northern Colorado Astronomical Society provide telescopes for your viewing pleasure.
Dress warmly, bring water and a blanket or chair to sit on in the parking lot.
Please arrive on time! The gate closes shortly after start times and parking is not allowed on the road outside the gate. 
Free, registration required at

Nature in the City: Fall Yard Tips

The leaves are showing their autumn shades, and you may be starting to think about putting your outdoor space to bed for the winter. Wait! Instead, make a hot drink and enjoy it from the comfort of your favorite chair. Our native wildlife love a messy yard!

Go ahead and leave fallen leaves and sleeping flowers, shrubs and grasses just as they are for the winter. They provide important resources for beneficial insects and small mammals. From snuggly nesting material to tasty seeds, this seemingly “dead” matter creates shelter and food for wildlife. Many plants also rely on the energy stored in their above-ground stems for winter survival.

If you simply must tidy-up, leaving a wood pile is another great way to provide habitat. Decaying branches and pithy-stems (think sunflower stems or raspberry canes) make excellent homes for cavity-nesting and wood-boring wildlife. With the extra time you saved letting nature “do its thing,” you can dream up future projects to make your outdoor space a happenin’ place for you, and wildlife too! Learn more about native plants and their wildlife value >>>
Photo- false dandelion, Ken Eis

Dogs in Natural Areas
Natural areas are wonderful places to be with your dog and enjoy the outdoors. Use the natural areas finder to check which sites allow dogs. Wonder why you have to keep your dog on a leash? Here are three reasons:
  • Public Safety - Dogs off-leash cause injuries each year. Dogs bite people, fight with other dogs, and run up to people or cross trails causing accidents to cyclists, roller bladers, and pedestrians. The City receives several complaints each year from people, especially children, who are afraid of dogs. Loose dogs ruin the trail experience for many people, even fellow dog walkers.
  • Resource Protection - Dogs off-leash can cause disturbance to wildlife by preventing them from hunting, foraging, resting, traveling, or other activity necessary for their survival. Dogs also disturb sensitive vegetation by trampling plants and spreading weed seeds. Please keep yourself and your dog on designated trails. Playing fetch or allowing dogs to roam can decrease the opportunities to observe wildlife for you and others. It also makes picking up and removing your dog's waste more difficult.
  • Protect Your Dog - Your dog could be in harms way. The City's natural areas are home to wildlife that could kill or injure your dog, such as black bears, mountain lions, coyotes and rattlesnakes. Also, wild rodents can harbor fleas, which carry plague. Keeping the dog on a leash and on trail will minimize this danger. Never allow dogs to enter prairie dog towns, where fleas may be more abundant, or approach dead, injured or sick wildlife.
You can take your dog off leash at the City's dog parks
    Learn more about recreation in natural areas

    Free Upcoming Activities

    Natural Area Welcome Hike, Thursday, October 11, 10:30 a.m. – noon, Red Fox Meadows Natural Area, meet at the parking lot off of Taft Hill Rd. New and old residents welcome! Discover the wonders of the natural areas by exploring a neighborhood natural area with staff who can answer questions and give recommendations for future hikes. Please bring water, sturdy walking shoes, sun protection, and any other comforts you might need. 1 mile; easy. Free, registration required at

    Skygazing at Fossil Creek Reservoir, Friday, October 19, 7:30 – 9:30 p.m. Fossil Creek Reservoir, meet at the parking lot. Volunteers from the Northern Colorado Astronomical Society provide telescopes for your viewing pleasure and share their knowledge about stars, planets, galaxies, and more. Dress warmly and bring a blanket or chair to sit on. Meet in the parking lot. Free, registration required at  

    Weird Wild Weather, Saturday, October 27, 10:00 a.m. - noon, Fossil Creek Reservoir Natural Area, meet at the parking lot. Learn about our unique weather patterns and how weather and climate affect humans and animals alike. Bring water, sun protection, and any other comforts you might need. 0.25 miles; easy. 9+. Free, registration required at

    Calendar of free activities

    Natural Areas News is published on the first Tuesday of the month with occasional special editions. Newsletter comments are welcome. Please contact Zoe Shark, City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Community Relations Manager, 970-221-6311 or 

    To learn more about Natural Areas, visit our website.

    City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department
    PO Box 580, 1745 Hoffman Mill Road
    Fort Collins, CO 80522