Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge,, 11/01/2015

The Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge (37,515 acres) is located north of Parker, AZ, off of Rte 95. It protects the last and largest riparian habitats on the lower Colorado River. The area supports many species of now rare flora and fauna due to changes in the habitat over the last 100 years. It is an important stopover point or migrating birds. 

There are multiple pull-offs along Rte 95 at the Refuge. We continued on the bridge over the Bill Williams River to the headquarters for the refuge (on the right). There is also a non-motorized boat launch here. 

Informative exhibits providing an overview of the the lower Colorado River region, the wildlife found here (and their habitats); a map of the refuge; and a biography of Bill Williams (a missionary in Arizona in the 1800s who became a trader, interpreter, and scout) can be found at the headquarters building. Information about the Refuge, hiking trails, and auto tour route can be picked up here as well. 

This part of the Refuge is on the southernmost part of Lake Havasu. There are two nature trails (1/2 mile each) that begin near the headquarters. We started on the Peninsula Nature Trail that is paved for the first 1/4 mile. Shaded areas with benches are provided along the trail. 

You can access the observation and fishing docks from this part of the trail.

A gravel/dirt trail continues to the end of the peninsula. Interpretive signs provide lots of interesting info about the 40 species of plants native to the area that can be found along the trail. 

At the point, a bench is provided where you can look for nesting herons on Heron Island. It is just beautiful!

We retraced our steps to the first shade ramada on the paved part of the Peninsula Nature Trail to find the beginning of the Delta Trail. There are numbered stones along the trail that correspond to information in a brochure we had picked up at the headquarters center. Hiking boots are recommended for this trail as the loose rock is unstable. 

The non-motorized boat (canoe, kayak) boat launch is found along the trail. Sadie, of course, had to take a quick swim in Lake Havasu. 

This pond is used as a grow-out facility for endangered razorback suckers and bonytail chubs (fish). 

Don't miss the left fork on the trail that leads down to Shell Beach Bay. The shells seen here are mostly an exotic species of clam (corbicula manilensis).

It is loop trail that provides scenic views of the southern part of Lake Havasu as well as the Bill Williams Delta Marsh. From the crest of the hill, we had a great view of Marsh that supports a diverse community of birds and a habitat for endangered native fish (center photo).

We highly recommend this short hike; we all enjoyed it very much. As we were returning to the parking area, we stopped to check out the desert tortoise habitat. We could not see the tortoise, though, because he was hiding out in his "man-made cave."  Next to the tortoise habitat is a "refugia" pond where endangered desert pupfish are raised. 

We hopped in the car drove a very short distance on Rte 95 to Bill Williams River Road. The road is very rocky and rough so we were only able to drive about a mile on it (wishing we had a high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle around here!)  The cattails are so thick in this area that you can barely see the Bill Williams River. South of this point is the large cottonwood forest that is a key part of the refuge. 

We continued on Rte 95 north over the Bill Williams Bridge; and, yes, I snapped a photo from the center of the bridge.

We proceeded to the scenic pull off on the right. The views from here were spectacular.

There is no admission fee to visit the Refuge. As you can see by the photos, it has dog-friendly trails. We enjoyed learning about the area and very much appreciate the efforts made by the Federal government to preserve the wildlife and native plants here. The best way to see more of the Bill Williams River is by kayak or canoe. For additional information about the Refuge, check out their website. 

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