Southeast Colorado Wildlife Weekend – Fall Migration and Tarantula Walkabout

September 19-22, 2024

An American Serengeti Safari

The Plains and Canyons of Southeast Colorado offer visitors unique historical, cultural, and natural wonders. A region of far-ranging contrasts with a rich heritage, this is one of the least changed areas of the state. Much of the terrain looks as it did centuries ago and wildlife are plentiful here, especially in September. This trip is timed to maximize opportunities to observe a diversity of Southern Great Plains icons including bison, Burrowing Owls, black-tailed prairie dogs, swift fox, coyote, and pronghorn, as well as the famed ‘tarantula migration’.

We have special permission to explore two private access Audubon Certified bird-friendly ranches and Southern Plains Land Trust, in addition to other legendary wildlife hotspots. Our ranch visits will highlight how two fifth generation family-owned ranches near Kit Carson are implementing regenerative grazing techniques to work with nature to maintain wildlife habitat. These innovative ranching techniques are helping sustain Great Plains biodiversity.

Southern Plains Land Trust, founded in 1998, creates and protects a network of shortgrass prairie preserves, ensuring a future for grassland flora and fauna. By visiting the preserves at Southern Plains Land Trust, you can witness first-hand the impact of conservation efforts aimed at protecting this endangered habitat, which supports a variety of wildlife including bison, prairie dogs, coyotes, beavers, badgers, tarantulas, and numerous bird species. Southern Plains Land Trust Logo


We have strategically selected areas away from crowds, so we have the time and space to enjoy these wildlife spectacles in true Reefs to Rockies style. We’ll travel along scenic and historic byways in a custom American safari van with a conversion pop-top and spacious seating. It’s not the traditional passenger van you may have traveled in on past trips. This one-of-a-kind vehicle has been specially designed by two wildlife biologists to allow for optimal viewing. It makes a perfect ‘blind’ and there’s ample room for everyone to view at the same time.

Join Reefs to Rockies for this unforgettable weekend getaway highlighting what makes Southeast Colorado so special. You won’t be disappointed!

ABOUT YOUR GUIDE: Sheridan Samano, Reefs to Rockies Co-Founder and Lead Biologist Guide, is thrilled to lead this unique summer safari to southeast Colorado. Timing for this trip is designed to place you in prairie and canyon wildlife hotspots during September prime time. Sheridan is excited to share her enthusiasm for our newly launched American Serengeti Series. This trip features scenic landscapes and showcases collaborations furthering our mission of conservation-based, sustainable tourism.


Day 1 (Thurs, Sept 19): Audubon Certified Bird-friendly Ranches ~ Morning departure from Denver. Within a few hours of leaving Denver, we’ll arrive to Flying Diamond, a fifth-generation family-owned Audubon Certified bird-friendly ranch that’s been running cattle and caring for arid grassland and riparian habitat in Kit Carson since 1907. We’ll hear directly from the family about their “work with nature” philosophy and holistic conservation ranching initiatives. After a dynamic morning wildlife safari and picnic lunch at Flying Diamond, we’ll move to Collins Ranch, another fifth-generation family-owned Audubon Certified bird-friendly ranch near Kit Carson. Even though these two ranches are close to one another, they each offer unique landscapes and wildlife habitat. There are sure to be Great Plains surprises as we explore these stunning seas of grass. Evening arrival to La Junta for our overnight stay.

Accommodations: Historic Cow Palace Inn

Meals: Lunch and Dinner

BisonDay 2 (Fri, Sept 20): Southern Plains Land Trust (SPLT) ~ The mission of SPLT is to purchase and preserve land in Southeast Colorado for prairie wildlife. To date, more than 60,000 acres have been protected providing refuge for an array of grassland flora and fauna. Piece by piece, SPLT is restoring the American Serengeti. We’ll see the impacts of SPLT’s efforts firsthand today as we explore their prairie preserve. We’ll also learn from SPLT’s directors about current and future conservation initiatives including reintroduction of black-footed ferrets, one of North America’s most endangered mammals, stream restoration for beavers, fence removal to allow for free-ranging animals including bison, pronghorn, and elk.

close up of a tarantula in Southeast ColoradoOklahoma brown tarantulas are a common species in undisturbed grasslands of southeast Colorado. Every fall, adult males set out in large numbers in search of female tarantulas who stay close to their burrows for their entire lives. Males use their senses of touch and vibration to locate females. Often incorrectly referred to as a migration, this walkabout of males across the southern plains is a remarkable wildlife spectacle.

During our late afternoon wildlife drive, we’ll search for tarantulas on the move. We’ll stay until after dark for a nocturnal experience at SPLT. Once prairie dogs go to sleep, other animals including badgers, swift foxes, and coyotes become more active. Today will be a wildlife experience to remember.

Accommodations: Historic Cow Palace Inn

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Burrowing OwlDay 3 (Sat, Sept 21): Colorado Canyonlands ~ Southeast Colorado is home to stunning canyons that offer visitors some of the most breathtaking views in the state. These canyons also offer a unique glimpse into the region’s history, ecology, and geology. We have the entire day to explore area canyons in search of resident and migratory species. Relive trip highlights during tonight’s Farewell Dinner in town.

Accommodations: Holiday Inn Express La Junta

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 4 (Sun, Sept 22): La Junta to Denver ~ As we make our way back to Denver, we’ll pass through Rocky Ford, a small agricultural haven famous for its melons. There’s time for a stop at a Rocky Ford farm stand before we continue west along the Arkansas River. The Arkansas River Valley is packed with top-notch wildlife viewing hotspots so we’ll have plenty of options to choose from this morning. Lunch will be at a farm to table deli in Pueblo. Our final wildlife viewing location of the trip will be selected based on recent sightings and what we’ve found up to this point. Early evening return to Denver.

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

American badgerDETAILS

Price: $1995* per person based on two people sharing a double occupancy room. Add $200* if you prefer a private, single occupancy room.

Inclusions: accommodations; transportation in “The Roaming Bison” Custom Safari Van; driver/guide (Sheridan Samano); daily guided wildlife viewing with spotting scope available; special access safaris on Days 1 and 2; entrance fees; meals as listed; gratuities at restaurants.

Exclusions: travel insurance, transportation to/from the meeting location in east Denver, optional gratuities for hotel staff, and activities not listed in the itinerary.

*Reflects payment by check. Credit card fees assessed based type of card used at time of payment. If you are a solo traveler that prefers to share a room, we’ll do our best to pair you. If we are unable to find a roommate for you, the private room supplement will apply.

Group Size: Min 4 and Max 7 participants + Sheridan Samano. We are known for having smaller group sizes with a better participant to guide ratio than most companies offering similar itineraries.

Level of Difficulty: Easy to Moderate. Ability to climb up and down from a passenger van that is lifted for 4WD (stool provided) is required. This trip involves multiple short daily walks on varied terrain with most walks between 1.5-2.5 miles in length and a total distance of up to 3-5 miles on a given day.

Reserve Your Spot Now!
by Sheridan May 19, 2024