A Pro’s Guide to Spotting Bighorn Sheep

These majestic beasts have a reputation for being extremely elusive. Spotting one along the river is one of the many rewards for spending time in the Colorado backcountry. Here are my top tips for making the most of viewing opportunities while on your whitewater rafting trip!

Timing
Bighorn sheep follow a schedule similar to ours, so you’ll see them out and about throughout the day. These animals are most active in the mornings and late afternoon, which lines up perfectly with our full and half day whitewater rafting trip schedules. In the middle of the day, bighorn sheep typically are found lounging about so they might be a bit trickier to spot from your raft. May and June are when lambs are born so if you join us for at the beginning of our Colorado whitewater rafting season, your odds of spotting yearlings and lambs in nursery groups are high.

Location
Browns Canyon National Monument and the surrounding areas are prime bighorn sheep habitats. The fertile landscape and abundant “safe zones” for ewes to raise their young attracts many sheep throughout the summer. Keep an eye out for bighorn nestled in groves of grass midday. During dawn and dusk, your best luck is spotting them playing near sources of water like the cliffs above an eddy along the Arkansas River in Colorado. Wilderness Aware guides study the bighorn sheep dwellings all season long so be sure to ask for tips on where to spot them. They prefer to live on sunny hillsides at elevations of 8,000 ft or higher. Our headquarters are at 8,000 ft and Browns Canyon National Monument is at an elevation of 10,000 – the perfect height for bighorn sheep!

Action
Bighorn sheep live up to their reputation for being aggressive head-butters. If you listen closely, sometimes you can hear their horns clashing against each other. Males prove themselves as worthy mates for the females by competing for their attention. In addition to this behavior, bighorn sheep are known for effortlessly appearing to ascend steep rocky cliffs. Their stocky legs are perfectly suited for stabilizing bighorn sheep as they climb. Bighorns are social animals, so if you spot one, scan around – there will be others hanging out nearby!

Immerse yourself in the Colorado wilderness this summer by joining us on whitewater rafting trip! Secure your spot online or by giving us a call at 1-800-IN-A-RAFT.

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