Autumn at Deer Creek Canyon

Reflecting the bright October sun and stretching beneath a clear blue sky, Deer Creek Canyon Park was a riot of color yesterday morning.  Incising the Front Range foothills southwest of Denver (just west of Chatfield State Park), the canyon is a popular area for biking, hiking and wildlife watching.

Early autumn colors painted the vegetation though the brilliant orange of Gambel oak had yet to materialize; east of the park, the redrocks of the Fountain Formation (Pennsylvanian sandstone) adorn the landscape throughout the year.  Contributing to nature's palate were a variety of colorful foothill birds, including Steller's and scrub jays, rufous-sided towhees, pine siskins and both American and lesser goldfinches.  The highlight of my visit was provided by a large flock of mountain bluebirds, forced down from the higher peaks by recent snows and fueling up before their journey to the Southern Plains and Desert Southwest, where they will spend the winter months.

Mule deer are always common at the Park and, though seldom encountered, mountain lions and black bear inhabit the canyon.  Other mammalian residents include rock squirrels, Colorado chipmunks, striped skunks, red and gray fox, bobcats and coyotes; Deer Creek Canyon Park is also one of the better locations in Metro Denver to observe golden eagles.  Needless to say, the crisp sunny weather and colorful landscape of October make the canyon especially inviting.