Wildlife in Idaho Springs, Colorado–And Where to See It

With its deep rocky gorges, rushing creeks, and high alpine terrain, Idaho Springs provides a rich habitat to many different species of wildlife. Learn about some of the animals you might see, and where, before your trip to Idaho Springs.

Beavers and Baby Beavers (Also Known As ‘Kits’)

Maybe the only animal on the river that enjoys water more than we do is the beaver. Clear Creek is home to at least one family of beavers, which have built a slightly rustic but original timber-frame lodge along the beginner stretch of river. Talk about prime real estate. 

Beavers are famous among the animal kingdom for being expert architects, engineers and builders, and are actually capable of completely changing an ecosystem by flooding an area with their log dams. Higher water is always okay by us, so thanks, Beaver friends. 

Big Horn Sheep

Big Horn Sheep are the largest wild sheep in America, and are also professional rock climbers. They can sometimes be spotted scaling the canyon walls on our advanced trip (that is if you are able to catch a break between rapids to look up). Aside from their vertical athletic abilities, they also are epic fighters. When competing for female attention, male sheep will battle it out for as long as 24 hours, butting heads with cracks that can be heard from a mile away!


Did you know Moose are actually giant deer? They are also great swimmers and can swim up to 10 miles without stopping– although they’re unlikely to take a dip in the whitewaters of Clear Creek. If you’re lucky, though, you might spot one from your boat–our guide Joe swears he’s seen a few Clear Creek Moose over the years. 

North American Dippers

John Muir once lovingly described these guys as “inseparable” from the river as they depends on swiftly moving water for its survival. No, John Muir was not talking about your raft guide. The North American Dipper is a brave little bird that makes its home on riverside cliffs to shelter their young from predators. In the early season, you can spot a Dipper nest and Dipper babies tucked into a river-right cliffside on our Advanced Trip

Bald Eagles

Nothing feels more patriotic than witnessing the Mascot of America soar over your raft as you’re shredding some Class IV Rapids through the iconic Clear Creek Canyon. Talk about freedom. Although they don’t look like it from so far away, Bald Eagles are huge birds; their wingspan can reach up to seven feet. To accomodate, they build 10-foot nests — that’s almost the size of our rafts! Bald eagles mainly dine on fish, which is why they are often seen around rivers, but they will also eat smaller birds, other birds’ eggs, rabbits, reptiles, and crabs. Because they eat a lot of fish, bald eagles tend to hang out around rivers, so if you spend enough time around the river you stand a pretty good chance of seeing one.

Mountain Goat

Although they don’t look it, Mountain Goats are actually more closely related to cattle than goats. These guys thrive in high-alpine environments and are some of the highest large animals found at altitude–in fact their whole bodies are designed for survival way up high. Their thick coats allow them to survive in -50 F temperatures, and their hooves make them excellent jumpers and climbers. Like a tree, you can tell how old a Mountain Goat is by how many rings they have on their horns–but good luck getting close enough to count. Our office staff Hannah once saw one of these guys climb up out from the river bank while stuck at one of Idaho Spring’s three stop lights, just down the road from our office.


Local lore suggests Sasquatch really does exist, and is actually just a raft guide who forgot to shower for an entire summer. Which explains why he’s been seen crashing through the woods howling at passing boats and beating his chest in excitement when they style a rapid. Our guide Levi advises against bringing beef jerky on your trip so you don’t draw his attention too much. Be extra alert on our Intermediate stretch; these are where the most sightings have taken place.


In the early summer months, you might be able to see baby foxes romping around the river banks, maybe with their mom and dad. As far as animal parents go, foxes are pretty good. They care for their kits until they’re 7-months old, bringing them food for the first two weeks of their life while the babies are still blind. However, once foxes do learn to see, they can see much, much better than we can. In fact, they can see the earth’s magnetic field, and use it to hunt prey. 


If you’re an angler, Clear Creek is an ideal river; close to Denver, easily accessible and abundant with Brook, Rainbow, Cutthroat and Brown Trout. Brook Trout, though not native to Colorado, have become the dominant species, thanks to their resistance to metals. Although Clear Creek used to be polluted by the area’s numerous mines, efforts to clean the river have helped enormously, and today the water is crystal clear with many pools to keep anglers entertained. Access to the river is simple; you can get off any exit on highway 70 or 6 between Loveland Pass and Golden. Just be careful not to snag a rafter when casting!