Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is a high-elevation wetland, riparian, and shrubland complex within the upper Centennial Valley. Red Rock Creek flows through the refuge, creating Upper Red Rock Lake, River Marsh, and Lower Red Rock Lake marshlands. The majestic Centennial Mountains that border the refuge on the south provide snowmelt runoff that replenishes the refuge?s wetlands each spring.
More than 230 species of birds have been documented on the refuge, which is well known for its breeding Trumpeter Swans and other wetland species. An estimated 2,000 pairs of Franklin's Gulls nest here, as do more than 200 pairs of White-faced Ibises. A pair of Peregrine Falcons and three pairs of Bald Eagles have nested on the refuge for many years. Fifteen species of breeders are of Global (Long-billed Curlew, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Brewer?s Sparrow, Cassin?s Finch) or Continental (Trumpeter Swan, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Swainson?s Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Marbled Godwit, Wilson?s Phalarope, Short-eared Owl, Williamson's Sapsucker, Red-naped Sapsucker, and Willow Flycatcher) conservation concern. Numerical data are unavailable for most of these species, but for two of them, Brewer's Sparrow and Trumpeter Swan, surveys document that numbers exceed threshold values to classify the refuge as an IBA of Global and Continental significance, respectively.
The habitat is in very good shape on the refuge and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Threats that could influence habitat quality include spread of invasive weeds and changes in water levels from extraction upstream from the refuge. In addition, increasing residential development in the Centennial Valley adjacent to the refuge threatens populations of species that use the refuge during part of their annual cycle.
The dominant habitats are open-water lakes, marshy wetlands dominated by sedges and rushes, and sagebrush (mostly big sagebrush and threetip sagebrush). The deciduous riparian habitat is dominated by several species of willows and trembling aspen.