"It was a mountain valley of the narrowest kind—almost a chasm; and the scenery very wild and beautiful…Below, the green river bottom was a wilderness of flowers, their tall spikes sometimes rising above our heads as we rode among them."
—John Charles Fremont, July 29, 1843
At the time of this journal entry, Fremont found himself within a spectacular region of Colorado known as the Laramie Foothills. Today considered one of the last great Front Range landscapes, this preserve features a spectacular roadless canyon, a rim-to-rim sanctuary encompassing four miles of the North Fork of the Cache la Poudre River.
There is a lot to see here. More than 100 bird species have been spotted in the grassy uplands, along the river's edge and soaring above the canyon walls. And varied topography, slope and soil conditions combine to create habitat for more than 200 plant species.
Early summer visitors or volunteers who participate in guided tours can experience two treats: the colorful, melodious migration of neotropical songbirds and the remarkably colorful display of native wildflowers.
Why The Nature Conservancy Selected This Site
TNC protected this preserve in 1987 primarily because this extensive foothills ecosystem supports the Larimer aletes (Aletes humilis), a rare member of the parsley family. The plant's distribution is limited to Larimer and Boulder counties in Colorado, with the most occurrences here at the preserve. Other native plants include:
- Bells twinpod
- Needle-and-thread grass
- One-sided penstemon
Phantom Canyon is also one of the last remaining roadless canyons along Colorado's Front Range. The preserve provides habitat for many wildlife species, including black bear, mountain lion, bobcat, which can all be found on the Colorado species of special concern list, and the Preble's meadow jumping mouse, which is federally threatened.
Bald eagles use the canyon in the winter months. Golden eagles, prairie falcons and redtail hawks nest high along the canyon walls.
What The Nature Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
TNC staff and volunteers are working on the following projects:
- Reintroducing the natural ecological processes of grazing and fire
- Restoring the prairie through seed collecting, planting and invasive weed management
- Creating partnerships and relationships within the local community to promote conservation through conservation easements and best management practices.
- Working with local landowners, government agencies and non-profit organizations as a part of the North Fork Cache la Poudre watershed Site Conservation Team to protect habitat and promote species population recovery for the Preble's meadow jumping mouse.
Phantom Canyon Preserve has a wide variety of volunteer opportunities throughout the summer. Monthly listings will be posted below during the volunteer season. We look forward to your participation on these rewarding days of fun and giving back to the land… And our deepest thanks for your support!