We’d had a really long day the day before, driving pretty far to do two different hikes, so we opted for an easy day today. Rocky Mountain Arsenal (RMA) National Wildlife Refuge is only an hour away from my house and offers a number of easy hikes, a scenic wildlife drive, and a visitor center/museum.
The museum is small, but has a number of exhibits telling of RMA’s rich history of Native Americans, pioneers, and chemical weapons manufacturing. The area eventually became a superfund site and is now a National Wildlife Refuge with reintroduced bison and numerous other wildlife species. It’s really remarkable to look back at the old photos and see the amazing transitions!
After visiting the museum, we quickly set out to do the wildlife drive before it got too busy. Unfortunately, they were doing some prescribed burning that day and we didn’t get to see the bison, but we did get to enjoy the restored prairie.
Locust Loop and Army Historic Trail | Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
Commerce City, CO | 07/25/19 | 1.51 miles | 36′ gain | Class 1
We saw an interpretive historic site on the map and decided that it’d be fun to hike to it and see what it was all about. The Locust Loop and Army Historic Trails led us across the prairie on a very easy walk. Our first historic stop was the Egli House, the only remaining farmhouse out of 200 that once existed on the property. All of the others were demolished to make room for the immense chemical weapons manufacturing plants.
The Locust Loop is named for the New Mexico Locust trees that were planted by farmers for shade and windbreaks. The trail travels through a grove of locusts.
The second historic stop was the site of the South Plants. 230 buildings once stood in this area, built by the US Army in 1942 to manufacture chemical weapons used in WWII.
We turned off the Locust Loop onto the Army Historic Trail and followed it to the interpretive site. The site was right next to the administrative office parking lot, and was just a small sitting area with flagpoles. There were a few interpretive signs describing some history we’d already read about at the museum, and a monument to the people who assisted with the environmental restoration of RMA. Pretty underwhelming, to say the least, but at least we didn’t walk very far to see it!
The walk back to the car went by quickly, and as the day was getting very hot, we decided not to return for more hiking after lunch.