Lindsay Ranch – Before Rocky Flats

The Lindsay ranch was originally homesteaded by the Scott family in 1868. The barn and relic buildings are the only permanent structures on the refuge.

About seven miles from our house, and in between Golden and Boulder, CO is the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, formerly a plutonium manufacturing plant. Plutonium triggers were made here for forty years, followed by a cleanup from 1990 to 2002. Today, all that remains is a landfill in the center of the refuge that’s surrounded by wild prairie backed by the vertical slabs of the Flatirons. The USFWS doesn’t have funding to open the refuge to the general public, but it plays an important role as a refuge for wildlife in the foothills/prairie interface along the Front Range. The Lindsay family bought the ranch from the Scott’s in 1941; and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission purchased the land in 1951.

6 thoughts on “Lindsay Ranch – Before Rocky Flats

  1. I really like this photo and was very surprised that it was from RF. I’m always very impressed by your work. Though, I’m surprised that as a conservation photographer, you characterized the cleanup in a way that makes it sound complete, and that you consider the prairie around the refuge to be ‘wild’? It seems to me that that the wildness has actually been stripped from this place from the industrial activities, the fencing, and all of the land divisions here that have yielded the landscape domesticated under total human control.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Peter! There’s a significant landfill in the center of the refuge and problems with invasive flora. It’s bordered by development on all sides, with gravel operations running near Highway 93 and there’s some question of whether uranium lives in the soil. Yet, there are moments when I’m just viewing a wild animal in native grass, or observing elk that have made the migration across 93 to calve at the refuge, and it feels like wild prairie. Perhaps it’s a loose definition, but with most of the shortgrass prairie chopped up and developed, aren’t these vignettes of wild prairie worth sharing? It’s also worth noting that Rocky Flats NWR holds a significant piece of the largest remanant xeric tallgrass prairie in North America. It’s a special, if imperfect place.

      1. I totally agree. Your photo captures a rare fragment of beauty, and is highly inspirational. It’s just strange to look at Colorado’s plains today and see that, as photographers, we can capture tiny fragments of beauty in places that have been otherwise stripped of their wild nature. Even more interesting have been the attempts at developing rocky flats, to even further erase these gems and rare fragments of native prairie.

        1. Nearly my entire Prairie Thunder book project was about finding those gems in the grassland. I’m probably a bit numb to the strangeness of searching for a patch of all native grass or a prairie dog town that doesn’t look like tarmac. With roughly 2% of our native grasslands remaining, it’s important that we have some of these semi-wild landscapes for outreach, education, and refuge. Fortunately, a very nice stretch of ponderosa savannah/prairie interface along the east face of the Flatirons remains intact.

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