Ecosystems at Lake Pueblo
All the major park ecosystems include diverse wildlife and plant communities. In addition to the aquatic ecosystems, Lake Pueblo has three major land ecosystems: riparian, pinon-juniper woodlands, and short-grass prairie. Transition zones, where the various ecosystems meet and overlap, provide more diversity.
RiparianThe riparian ecosystem at Lake Pueblo, which lies on both sides of the Arkansas River as it leaves the Reservoir, is part of the Rock Canyon day-use area. This zone is characterized by cottonwood and peach leaf willow trees. Tamarisk and Russian olive are invasive species that are becoming more prevalent in this area. Animals commonly found in this area include mule deer, raccoon, muskrat, and beaver.
Birds include a variety of nesting birds such as the yellow warbler, Bullock’s oriole, and the American robin. Waterfowl such as wood ducks, mallards, teal, and Canada geese are also common.
Pinon-Juniper WoodlandJuniper trees, with a few intermingling pinon pine trees, characterize this ecosystem. Coincidentally, the area in the park that embodies this zone is mainly around Juniper Breaks Campground. Steep, rocky bluffs identify the area where the junipers have stood their ground for hundreds of years. It is home to coyotes, skunk, cottontail rabbits, and various lizards. This area is generously inhabited by raptors such as the red-tailed hawk because of its large rodent population that includes deer mice, kangaroo mice, and pocket gophers.
Short-Grass PrairieThe most prevalent ecosystem in the park is the short-grass prairie found on the south side of the park. It moves north until it meets the riparian area and picks up on the north side of the park after transitioning from the pinon-juniper area. The most common vegetation includes four-winged saltbush, sagebrush, rabbitbrush, and grasses such as blue grama and Galleta. Mammals include coyotes, skunk, badgers, raccoons, squirrels, and red or gray fox. Birds of this area include scaled quail, mourning doves, and meadowlarks. Reptiles such as bull snakes, prairie rattlesnakes, coachwhips (often called red racers), Colorado checkered whiptails, and eastern fence lizards can also be seen.