Ice out on Barr Lake

Water lovers flock to a prairie lake near Denver as spring unfolds
Lora J. Finnegan

"For birds, Barr Lake is the best bed-and-breakfast on the Front Range," says Mary Ann McMullen, volunteer naturalist with Barr Lake State Park in Brighton, Colorado.

Nestled in the prairie northeast of Denver, this cottonwood-ringed lake is typically ice-free by April and is a spring haven for migrating birds. "They hang out, pick off some insects, and get a room for the night en route north," McMullen explains. Even bald eagles love the park: On the Eagle Express tour (May-Oct; call park for rates and reservations), you might see them perched on giant nests.

Barr Lake is also an early-season draw for hikers, anglers, and boaters. It's stocked with trout; use the boat ramp to launch a canoe or a boat with a trolling motor (10 horsepower or less; no rentals available on-site). Hikers can pick up a map and a bird list at the small nature center. Head out on the Lake Perimeter Trail, a 9-mile loop, and you'll see a sign reading "churchill, manitoba: 1,388 miles." McMullen explains: "It shows how far some of these birds are going."

INFO:  Barr Lake State Park  ($5 per vehicle; 303/659-6005) is about 20 miles northeast of Denver off I-76. The nature center (13401 Picadilly Rd.) is open 9-4 Wed-Sun.