Chico Basin Ranch is a family-managed cattle ranch owned by the Colorado Land Board and operating on the high prairie of eastern Colorado. They use age-old ranching practices, progressive grazing management, and innovative business strategies to maintain healthy lands and a profitable, rewarding livelihood.

The ranch is a major flyway for migratory birds, due to abundant springs, lakes, and other bird habitat, and is well known as one of the prime birding locations in the state. Over 330 species of birds—some rarely seen in Colorado—have been sighted on the ranch.

The ranch operates a bird banding station during the spring and fall in partnership with the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. In addition, school groups, birding groups, and other educational programs are hosted throughout the year.

The ranch maintains a birding trail, outlined on a map that lists the prime birding locations to assist self-guided birders. Visitors are asked to check in at ranch headquarters—please follow the directions on the contact page as GPS, Google Maps, etc. may get you lost. The birding map and other ranch information are available at a kiosk outside of the main office. Please contact the ranch with any questions, or to make special arrangements for your group’s outing.

Changes to Chico Basin Ranch Coming Soon

Some of you may be aware of the deliberations between Aiken Audubon and the Colorado State Land Board (SLB) over the past few years, regarding access to Chico Basin Ranch. We’ve come to an agreement, and it will go into effect sooner than anticipated. Below are some of the conditions of Aiken’s layered lease with the SLB. Though the lease has been approved by the SLB Board of Commissioners, we have not received a contract.

The lease and the changes listed below will go into effect on March 1, 2024.  This is earlier than we, the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies (BCR), and Ranchlands anticipated.

  • Access weeks: Birders will have access 10 weeks of the year: 5 weeks each during spring and fall migration. The dates will coincide with BCR’s banding operation. A few Aiken members will be able to visit the ranch one day per month during the off-months in order to maintain a year-round count of bird species.
  • Hours of access:  7 a.m. to 1 p.m. 
  • Number of birders: 20 per day
  • Locations open to birders: Banding Station, Headquarters and Rose Pond. Specific parking areas will be designated. Access to other parts of the ranch will not be allowed.
  • Reservations: Birders will be required to register and pay in advance via a registration system to be administered by Aiken. The daily fee has not yet been determined.
  • Time Frame: Aiken will hold a five-year lease, though either party may cancel at any time.

In addition to other requirements, Aiken will provide BCR with one volunteer whenever a school group is expected. If you’re interested in helping with this, please contact Linda Hodges at [email protected].

We encourage you to visit the ranch this migration season while access is not yet limited.

For additional background information, see DFO October 2023 newsletter pg. 16.