Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, 1/08/2016

We had visited the two other National Wildlife Refuges (Imperial and Kofa) near Yuma and decided to make the drive (an hour and a half) to Cibola. 

There is not a good direct route and we initially missed the right turn onto a dirt road off of Highway 78 a couple of miles south of the small town of Palo Verde. The address of the Visitor Center is 66600 Cibola Lake Road, Wellton, AZ. 

The Cibola Wildlife Refuge (established in 1964) is 18,3000 acres of riparian habitat on the Lower Colorado River that provides an important habitat for migratory birds. waterfowl, and resident species. Thousands of sandhill cranes, Canada and snow geese and other waterfowl winter here. Mule deer, coyote, and bobcats are mammals commonly found on the refuge as well as Great Plains toads, desert iguanas, western diamondback and sidewinder rattle snakes (although we did't see any!) Feral burros also wander the refuge but we only saw their scat. Upstream dams and levees have significantly altered the Colorado River. The Refuge continually works to simulate historic conditions and recreate habitats that existed during the pre-damn era. 

We spent some time checking out the exhibits in the Visitor Center ... very well done.  

This display of eggs of various species of birds was fascinating. The hummingbird egg was the size of a jellybean! Some have such interesting colors and/or specks. Check out the large ostrich egg on the far right in the photo.

We were so disappointed to learn that both the 3-mile auto tour loop and 1-mile nature trail were closed due to recent rain. With an annual rainfall of only 2", recent rainfall created very muddy conditions. There is, however, a Desert Trail near the Visitor Center that we explored. You can pick up a small brochure for the trail. 

Taken from the observation deck at the beginning of the Desert Trail, you can see the winter crops in the fields beyond the river. Planted each year, the fields provide forage for the thousands of Sandhill Cranes, Canada Geese, Snow Geese and many varieties of ducks that winter at the Refuge. The desert soil in the foreground has a blackish tint because it is covered with a thin layer of bacteria that forms the desert patina. 

Although this photo is not very crisp (I took it with my iPad as I forgot my camera on this jaunt!), you can see the Canada Geese in the wetlands near the river.

Along the trail are many plants indigenous to the Sonoran Desert including creosote bushes, palo verde. honey mesquite, desert willow, cottonwood trees (found in low lying areas along the river). At the end of the trail is a a pond where Desert Pupfish, are being raised. Pupfish were previously found in springs, marshes and backwaters along the lower Colorado River. Due to lose of habitat and competition from non-native fish, these fish have reached the endangered species status. We have seen similar ponds in other wildlife refuges in the Southwest. 

Because the auto tour loop was closed, we drove along the levee road to the Cibola Lake Overlook. 

We made some stops along river to enjoy the beauty of the area. Sadie, of course, had to jump in for a swim (that didn't last long as the water was very cold!)  

We saw some beautiful birds of prey (a bald-headed eagle and several hawks) which is always a thrill (sorry, no photos). The backdrop of the mountains in the distance was so scenic.

Below is Cibloa Lake from the overlook. Be cautious driving up the hill to the overlook as the road is very rocky. 

We loved this stunning view of the Colorado River. 

Continuing our drive on the levee road, we saw many sand bars in the river. There are some lovely sandy beaches on some parts of the river as well. What a beautiful part of the country.

If you enjoy birdwatching, this is a great location to visit. Over 240 species of birds have been sighted here. For additional information about the Refuge, check out their website. 

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