Wildlife Viewing Areas
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Big Black Mesa Loop
This loop, designated for a vehicle tour along FR 573, travels through pinyon -juniper woodland. The road follows the old Peavine Railroad grade along Limestone Canyon, providing some elevation for better viewing. An old limestone kiln is along the way.
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Upper Verde River Wildlife Area
Description: Spectacular canyons and a lush riparian corridor provide excellent scenic and recreational opportunities. This is the headwaters of the Verde River, and several of the source springs for the river originate on this property. This area provides one of the few public access points to the Upper Verde River and its riparian corridor, floodplains, cliffs, and adjacent uplands. In some areas, prominent cliffs rise 100 to 300 feet above the river.

Wildlife to Watch: Wildlife is abundant throughout the area, and the lush riparian habitat provides an important migration corridor for a large number of bird species. Resident species include golden and bald eagles, belted kingfisher, and juniper titmouse. Migratory breeding birds in the area include yellow-billed cuckoo, Cassin’s kingbird, and Bullock’s oriole, while cooler months bring an influx of mountain and western bluebirds, sage thrasher, and ferruginous hawk.

Mammals to watch for include mule deer, javelina, beaver, coyote, and river otter. This stretch of the Verde River is home to one of the most diverse assemblages of native fish in Arizona. Roundtail chub, Sonoran and desert sucker, and longfin dace are the most common species, but razorback sucker and spikedace may also be present. Lizards are highly visible during warmer months and eastern collared, greater earless, Clark’s spiny, and plateau lizards, and Gila spotted and desert grassland whiptails are some of the most commonly seen species. Snakes of the area include the beautiful Sonoran mountain kingsnake, gophersnake, terrestrial gartersnake, and Arizona black rattlesnake.

Special Tips: Accessibility into the Verde River canyon is difficult due to steep and rocky terrain. High clearance vehicles are recommended.

Other Activities: No official trail but visitors may walk along 3 miles of the Verde River and 1 mile of Granite Creek, as well as along flood plain terraces and cliff faces adjacent to the river.

Ownership: Arizona Game & Fish Department 
Size: 796 acres 
Closest Town: Paulden

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Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing:

Golden Eagle - photo by USFWS
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Driving Directions:
From Hwy. 89 in Paulden, take Chino Ranch Road East (USFS 635) approximately 1 mile. Make sharp right, cross railroad tracks and make sharp left. Take very first right and go south approximately 3 miles to enter the main parcel of the property.

Map Link

Upper Verde River Wildlife Area : Wildlife Viewing Area