Sunday, November 22, 2015

Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, 11/17/2015

After our jet boat tour to Topock Gorge, we wanted to see more of the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge. The administrative office is located in Needles, CA, so we went their first to obtain more information about the Refuge.

The park ranger there was very helpful and provided us with information about the Refuge as well as a detailed map and directions to areas that we might be interested in visiting. At first we thought that it was closed, but you just need to ring the bell. 

The Havasu National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 37,515 acres. It protects 30 miles and 300 miles of shoreline of the Colorado River from Needles, CA, to Lake Havasu City, AZ. The National Wildlife Refuge System (administered by the US Fish & Wildlife Service) is a network of protected land that shelters both common and rare species of flora and fauna. There is at least one Refuge in every state. Many species have been restored from the brink of extinction by the National Refuges. Most of them, like the Havasu Refuge, are situated (roughly) along the 4 migratory bird flyways in North America. Havasu is a wintering area and stopover point for many migrating birds.

There are three major sections of the Havasu Refuge:
  • Topock Gorge, a 20-mile long canyon along the Colorado River. 
  • Topock Marsh, 4,000 watery acres for birdwatching, boating, fishing, and hunting (in the fall). 
  • Havasu Wilderness Area, for hiking (no roads, vehicles, camping allowed).
Our first destination was the Beal Lake Viewing Tower in the Topock Marsh area. We took the River Highway south from Highway 95. It turns into the Upper Levee Road. There is also a Lower Levee Road that runs parallel to it closer to the river. These roads are gravel but well maintained. 

As the name suggests, it runs along the Colorado River affording lovely views of the river and surrounding wilderness areas. Of course, our doggy, Sadie, couldn't resist a quick swim in the Colorado River. 

There was a beautiful RV park across the river (at Pirates Cove) that looked like a great place to stay.

We took a left turn (marked with a sign) to the Beal Lake Viewing Tower (although I would probably call it a viewing platform).

We saw some birds here and during the drive, but I did not get any good photos (have to work on that!)

We retraced our steps north to Barrackman Road turning right onto Courtwright Road. It turns into County Route 1 where we continued south to Catfish Paradise

This is a popular fishing spot. I took the photos below from the fishing pier here.

We have seen lots of American Coots, with their distinctive white beaks, in the area. These birds are rails and have triangular beaks (like chickens) and do not have webbed feet. I had assumed they were ducks, because there are a lot of them in the area as well.

Sadie spotted a dog that was hanging out with his owner, a fisherman. Of course, they had to meet!

There was also a lovely picnic area and bathrooms at this location. 

There are many other sites to see at this Refuge. Hiking trails are located in the Havasu Wilderness Area near Castle Rock and the Mesquite Bay area. The Havasu National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1941. Approximately two million people visit annually with the majority being recreational boaters in the Colorado River in the 20-mile Topock Gorge. 

For additional information about the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, please see their website. 

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