A state-designed natural area, the Plains Conservation Center on Colorado’s high plains allows visitors to experience life on the prairies. The 1,100 acre outdoor education facility is located in Aurora and has breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains. The area is home to over 75 plant, 30 mammal, 102 bird and 19 reptile species.
The center’s mission is to preserve a part of Eastern Colorado’s prairies, educate the public and especially children about Colorado’s eco-history, and nurture conservation efforts. The much larger West Bijou Creek sister site (nearly 8,000 acres) is located just south of the small community of Strasburg, about 35 miles west of Denver.
A railroad was once located on the land that the Aurora site is currently on. In 1952, the center opened, engaging farmers and ranchers on erosional control and water conservation. Its iconic sod homestead houses, school and blacksmith shop were constructed in 1970 and the replica tipis were brought to the center in 1991. In 1996, the City of Aurora purchased the center and committed to continuing its mission.
State-designated Natural Area
Today, the Aurora center features a historic schoolhouse, a heirloom garden, a blacksmith shop and barn including a chicken coop, and a Cheyenne camp recreated with tipis. There is also a library and learning center that schools and groups can visit. The City of Aurora manages the site and programs. The Denver Botanic Gardens organizes educational programs for schools and the general public. This includes wagon tours, summer education and overnight camps where visitors can sleep in the tipis.
The center hosts six miles of trails accessible to visitors though some have been closed in the past when an eagle’s nest was discovered nearby. Visitors can grab a map detailing the site’s history at the nature center before heading out onto the trails. Bald eagles, prairie dogs, pronghorn, coyotes and red-tailed hawks are often spotted on the trails.
The center is located on East Hampden Avenue just west of E-470. The Plains Conservation Center welcomes visitors from noon to 4:30pm from Wednesday to Friday and 9am to 4:30pm on the weekends. It is closed on Monday and Tuesday.
Address: 21901 E Hampden Ave, Aurora, CO 80013
Season: Year round