|Cibola National Wildlife Refuge|
In the floodplain of the lower Colorado River and surrounded by a fringe of desert ridges and washes, this refuge encompasses both the historic Colorado River channel as well as a channelized portion constructed in the late 1960s. Several important backwaters are home to many wildlife species tha...
Kofa National Wildlife Refuge
|Description: The pristine beauty of the rugged Sonoran Desert is showcased at the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. The area is characterized by broad, gently sloping foothills as well as sharp, needlepoint peaks. The rugged and scenic Kofa and Castle Dome Mountains, along with portions of the Tank, New Water, and Little Horn Mountains, dominate the landscape.|
On the more remote eastern side of the refuge, remnants of livestock grazing prior to 1980 are visible. These include windmills, corrals, earthen stock tanks, and two “line camp” cabins. The stone and mortar Kofa Cabin, built by the Arizona Conservation Corps in the 1930s, is a popular destination for refuge visitors. Many remaining manmade structures have not been maintained for almost a century, and visitors should be careful when exploring near them.
You may also see evidence of past mining for gold, silver, manganese, and lead. A number of mines dotted the mountains here; the most famous was the King of Arizona mine, which was contracted into “Kofa” and gave the mountains their name. The volume of mining makes it impractical to secure all of the many vertical shafts, open pits, and drift tunnels which are subject to collapse or cave-in due to their age. These sites are dangerous, and visitors should take care to avoid them. They should never be entered.
Alert visitors may also notice evidence of World War II military training that was conducted on parts of the refuge by General George Patton and others. Units from all over the United States trained here prior to deploying overseas. Some of this training left behind unexploded munitions. Efforts to locate and remove such hazards are continuous, but visitors should not pick up anything that appears to be military in nature. Any suspicious item should be reported to refuge headquarters.
Landforms reflect outstanding examples of geologic uplift and a variety of different rock types. Native species include a few relict stands of California fan palms, Kofa Mountain barberry, and scrub oak. Visitors to the higher portions of the Kofa Mountains will see desert plants that have adapted to the higher desert elevations, including bear grass and desert agaves. If winter rains are adequate, there is potential for tremendous displays of wildflowers in the spring. Such rains may also create dramatic run-off and flash flooding in low-lying areas and washes. Visitors should use caution when crossing these locations during rainy conditions.
With over 82% of the refuge designated as wilderness, there are many opportunities for visitors to participate in primitive and unconfined recreation. Rock climbing on the wide expanses of rocky cliffs that characterize the refuge is ill-advised due to the effects of millennia of extreme heat, cold, and wind on the surface structure. Hiking and backpacking are becoming increasingly popular visitor uses in the refuge’s wilderness.
Wildlife to Watch: This refuge protects 600 to 800 bighorn sheep that live in the rugged Kofa and Castle Dome Mountains. Although not every visitor will see sheep, the experience of seeing these animals climbing, feeding, and resting in this spectacular setting is worth the effort. Binoculars and/or a spotting scope are recommended. Early mornings in January and February offer the best chance to see bighorn sheep at Palm Canyon, Burro Canyon, Kofa Queen Canyon, and Horse Tanks.
Look for wildlife burrows while driving the refuge roads; these are home to ground squirrels, pocket mice, and kangaroo rats. The familiar woodrat makes its home by piling sticks and cactus joints that are scattered beneath bushes and in rock clefts and caves throughout the refuge. You may also see mule deer.
The refuge supports a number of amphibians and reptiles within its boundaries. The desert tortoise is one of the longest living creatures in the United States. Other species include the rosy boa, coachwhip, gophersnake, western shovel-nosed snake, common kingsnake, 5 species of rattlesnakes (western diamond-backed, sidewinder, Mohave, black-tailed, and speckled), western banded gecko, zebra-tailed lizard, eastern collared lizard, desert horned lizard, common chuckwalla, desert iguana, desert spiny lizard, Sonoran Desert toad, and the red-spotted toad. Birds include red-tailed hawk, golden eagle, ash-throated flycatcher, loggerhead shrike, cactus and canyon wrens, phainopepla, Scott’s oriole, and curve-billed thrasher. Among the low oaks and dense desert scrub at higher elevations, hikers will find isolated nesting populations of blue-gray gnatcatcher, canyon towhee, and black-chinned and rufous-crowned sparrows.
Special Tips: Photography and wildlife viewing opportunities occur year round, with peak visitation in January and February. There is hunting available in the fall and winter, with desert exploration popular in fall, winter, and spring. March and April visitation can be high if spring wildflowers are present.
Kofa was included in desert military training exercises during World War II. Unexploded ordinance may be encountered during cross-country hiking. Picking up items that appear to be military hardware could be hazardous to your health. Avoid old mine shafts that you may encounter on the refuge. These shafts are unstable and can be hazardous to visitors.
Other Activities: View California fan palms, the only native palm in Arizona, along a ½ mile trail at Palm Canyon. Strong hikers may continue on from the palm viewing site into Palm Canyon.
Ownership: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Size: 664,327 acres, of which 547,719 acres (82%) is wilderness
Closest Town: Quartzsite
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: