Riverbend Ponds Natural Area features a scenic, open space area along the Cache La Poudre River with a wide variety of wildlife viewing, fishing, and hiking opportunities. Additionally, the natural area is part of the Cache La Poudre River National Heritage Area, a partnership between local governments, non-profits, and the National Park Service.
Riverbend Ponds features trails that wind around each pond, with Big Pond in the center. Several loop combinations are possible, but this hike will take you to Big Pond and Wiper Pond. Walking around Big Pond is virtually inevitable and Wiper Pond is particularly enjoyable since the trail along the eastern shore is extremely narrow with a narrow footbridge in the center. It offers wonderful views as you walk along this portion of the trail.
From the Cherly St. entrance, there are about 3 miles of natural surface trails and a boardwalk. An underpass under Prospect Road connects to recreational opportunities on the south side of Prospect, such as Cottonwood Hollow and Running Deer natural areas and CSU’s Environmental Learning Center. On the western edge of the natural area runs the Poudre River, and at several places, you can leave the main trail and explore the river’s banks. On the eastern side of Big Pond, there is an interesting boardwalk system with viewing platforms that are ideal for observing wildlife and taking photographs.
Riverbend Ponds offer a lot of diversity including a stretch of the Poudre River and seven former gravel mine ponds. The Colorado Division of Wildlife stocks the ponds with warm-water species like crappie, largemouth bass, and channel catfish, which make them a popular spot for anglers. Riverbend Ponds are also a popular location for bird watchers, with over 200 species of birds feeding, resting, nesting, and migrating through, including green herons, a variety of ducks, American white pelicans, double-crested cormorants, and others. Furthermore, Riverbend Ponds’ flat trails with loop options and varied habitats are appealing to many hikers and dog-walkers.
Based on the 2011 update to the Cache La Poudre River Natural Areas Management Plan, Riverbend Ponds Natural Area boundaries slightly changed. The portions of Riverbend Ponds west of Timberline Road and southwest of the Poudre River have been incorporated into Kingfisher Point and Cattail Chorus natural areas, respectively. The changes are typically less noticeable to visitors.
Furthermore, this natural habitat is characterized by ponds and wetlands that lend a peaceful and calming atmosphere. This area is free to use as well. In addition, there has been progressing in the restoration of native plants in areas previously dominated by weedy non-natives. To aid in the process of restoration, it is recommended that you stay on established trails, and pack out anything you bring in. Those walking their dogs are asked not to bury their pet’s waste.
The dense cottonwood forests along the river and ponds make this park a beautiful fall destination, but it’s also enjoyable all year long. Riverbend Ponds Natural Areas serve as a great resource and a great location to stretch your legs while still being close to the downtown area of Fort Collins.
From I-25 in Fort Collins, exit at Prospect Road and head west, the parking area and trailhead will be on the right just after Summit View Drive.
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