Thanks to David Neils for producing this conservation spotlight and capturing all of the wildlife and aerial footage. Visit www.wildnaturemedia.com to view more wildlife footage from Sylvan Dale.
Sylvan Dale Ranch Wildlife & Natural History
Sylvan Dale has 3,200 acres of wildlife habitat, interspersed with Roosevelt National Forest.
The main ranch grounds are located in an ecological transition zone that includes the Big Thompson River corridor, grasslands (both native prairie remnants and pastures), foothills shrubland, ponderosa pine forest, and prairie wetlands. Ecological diversity means species richness.
The Ranch has been involved in restoration of bighorn sheep, wild turkeys, and other native species to the area in cooperation with the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife. From their start at Sylvan Dale, these animals have expanded both north and south along the mountain front. Those bighorn sheep that you see in the Narrows of the Big Thompson Canyon likely were born at Sylvan Dale.
The geological story of Sylvan Dale is fascinating. Classes from nearby universities use the Ranch for field trips because of the diversity of lessons to be learned in a compact area. The Rocky Mountains rise from the Great Plains at Sylvan Dale. Rocks exposed range in from 1.8 billion year old granite of Alexander Mountain to sands and gravels from the last Ice Age, a few thousand years ago. A guide to the geology of Sylvan Dale is available on-line.
Natural history opportunities abound because of careful stewardship. The Jessup family practices low-impact, rapid-rotation grazing to protect rangeland, and has placed about 80% of the Ranch land under conservation easements so that it can never be developed.
The best ways to explore nature are on horseback or on foot. Our hiking trails range from easy, level paths through the pastures, to rugged trails over rimrock and into the surrounding ponderosa pine-covered mountains.