|Roper Lake State Park|
Roper Lake, at 3,130 feet elevation, is formed by warm water springs and surrounded by mesquite, salt cedar, and paloverde trees. The lake is a major stopover and nesting spot for many migrating birds. At the Dankworth Pond site, follow a self-guided trail. Enjoy an outstanding view of nearby Mo...
|Description: Experience the ecological equivalent of driving from Mexico to Canada in one leisurely afternoon on this skyscraping, switchbacking mountain road. The main road offers spectacular views of adjacent valleys as it climbs from 2,900 feet to over 9,000 feet.
The Swift Trail begins in the desert, where cactus, yucca, and mesquite are the prevalent plant species. As the climb begins, the landscape changes from low desert scrub, to oak grasslands, to pinyon juniper woodlands, and finally to forests of pine, spruce and fir. The road winds past breathtaking panoramas, lush forests, and picturesque mountain meadows. Finally, travelers arrive at the alpine meadows and forests of the 9,000-foot-high ridges of the Pinaleño Range, the highest and most extensive range in all the Sky Islands of southeastern Arizona. Within these alpine habitats at the end of the Swift Trail is Riggs Flat Lake, found at the highest elevation of any lake in southeastern Arizona. Viewing takes place along the entire length of the road with many pull-outs and overlooks.
Wildlife to Watch: Bird migration periods are excellent times to visit this area to see such warblers as yellow-rumped, Grace’s, red-faced, Virginia’s, olive, black-throated gray, and painted redstart, along with such species as acorn and Arizona woodpeckers, band-tailed pigeon, mountain chickadee, red crossbill, pine siskin, yellow-eyed junco, and red-breasted and pygmy nuthatches. Birds of prey along this route can include red-tailed, zone-tailed, and Cooper’s hawks, and northern goshawk. White-tailed deer and Abert’s squirrel are commonly seen, and the Mount Graham red squirrel can be seen at the highest elevation areas along the road. These mountains provide the only habitat for this red squirrel. Black bear are relatively common throughout. Reptiles include twin-spotted rattlesnake, black-tailed rattlesnake, Sonoran mountain kingsnake, and Yarrow’s spiny lizard.
Special Tips: Open fields (Hospital Flat, in particular) provide areas where Gould’s turkeys and bobcats may be seen. Evening and nighttime drives can lead to black bear, gray fox, and ringtail sightings.
Other Activities: There are many trials of varying length and difficulty.
Ownership: U.S.D.A. Forest Service
Size: 35 mile route
Closest Town: Safford
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: