Wildlife Viewing Areas
 Search the U.S.
Find an AnimalFind a Viewing AreaPlan a TripAboutContact


Purchase the Arizona wildlife viewing guide
Arizona Game and Fish

Arizona State Parks

Arizona Tourism

Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Lake Mead National Recreation Area is a startling contrast of desert and water, mountains and canyons, primitive backcountry and busy marinas. Lake Mead and Lake Mohave were created by dams on the Colorado River as it flows through one of the hottest, driest regions on earth. America's first nati...
more info

Havasu National Wildlife Refuge
Description: In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Havasu NWR to provide migratory waterfowl habitat. The refuge protects 30 river miles - 300 miles of shoreline - from Needles, California, to Lake Havasu City, Arizona. The waters of the lower Colorado River flow through Topock Gorge and Topock Marsh in the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge near the Arizona-California border. The gorge is among the most scenic portions of the Colorado River south of the Grand Canyon. Rugged desert mountains and colorful rocky cliffs give visitors a beautiful backdrop for wildlife viewing.

The marsh and gorge represent over 40 percent of the remaining backwaters of the lower Colorado River. These backwaters serve as stopover and wintering points for migratory birds and resident wildlife. The 4,000-acre Topock Marsh was created from a historical river meander in 1966 when the South Dike outlet structure was constructed.

Water levels of the marsh are manipulated through closing and opening of gates at the South Dike outlet structure. Levels are increased during the early spring to benefit the nesting willow flycatcher and then slowly drawn down over the fall to maximize the availability of submerged aquatic vegetation for waterbirds.

One of the last remaining natural stretches of the lower Colorado River flows through the 20-mile-long Topock Gorge. The great river in a dry, hot land attracts both wildlife and people, who flock to the refuge to boat through the spectacular Topock Gorge, watch waterbirds in Topock Marsh, or hike to the Havasu Wilderness Area.

Indian petroglyphs in Topock Gorge trace the stories of early peoples who lived along the lower Colorado River. A few old mines tell a more recent tale of nineteenth century gold prospectors hoping to strike it rich.

Wildlife to Watch: From bighorn sheep to the willow flycatcher, wildlife at Havasu NWR relies on the life-giving waters of the lower Colorado River. Birders come to the refuge for some of the best birding on the lower Colorado.

Popular birding locations on the refuge are Pintail Slough, Fivemile Landing, and Catfish Paradise, which can be accessed from County Route 1. Each of these sites has parking and can easily be toured on foot. A viewing tower overlooking the Bermuda Pasture can be accessed by Levee Road.

The marsh provides a critical resting place for migratory waterfowl and a home to resident songbirds, waterbirds, and other wildlife. Many species of ducks and geese are drawn to the backwaters. You may also see Clark’s and western grebes, Anna’s hummingbird, and Abert’s towhee. The refuge shelters thousands of Canada and snow geese and ducks each winter, along with small flocks of white-faced ibis and American white pelicans. Nesting Yuma clapper and Virginia rails, common moorhens, least bitterns, and marsh wrens utilize dense cattail habitat along the river. Isolated stands of willow, cottonwood, and taller tamarisk also attract migrating flycatchers, warblers, vireos, tanagers, grosbeaks, and orioles.

Bighorn sheep may be seen in the gorge, near the river’s edge, or standing in silhouette on a ridgeline. The best times are dawn and dusk at the river edge; keep an eye on the ridgelines.

Common to the refuge are black-tailed jackrabbits and various species of mice and wood (pack) rats which form a prey base for coyotes, fox, and bobcats. Along the river, songbirds use the shelter of Fremont cottonwoods, Goodding's willow, and honey and screwbean mesquite. In the desert uplands, your best chance to see greater roadrunners and coveys of Gambel's quail and low flying lesser nighthawks is during warm weather in early morning or evenings.

The precipitous canyon walls also provide habitat for a variety of reptile and amphibian species that visitors may chance upon while hiking. These include Great Basin collared lizard, common chuckwalla, rosy boa, gophersnake, speckled rattlesnake, and red-spotted toad.

Special Tips: 

Other Activities: Visitors are welcome to walk on over 5 miles of service roads, including South Dike, New South Dike and in Pintail Slough. These are rock substrate and fairly level.

Ownership: US Fish & Wildlife Service 
Size: 37,515 acres 
Closest Town: Golden Shores

RestroomsParkingBoat LaunchTrailer Camping

Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing:

Havasu NWR Topock Gorge - photo by Matt Sherrell
Use link below please

Driving Directions:
The Topock Marsh Unit of Havasu NWR is located approximately 15 miles south of Bullhead City. From SH 95, turn east on Courtwright Rd and drive approximately 3 miles. Topock Marsh will be on your right for the next 10 miles. Public access points include North Dike, Fivemile Landing, Catfish Paradise, and Topock Gorge Marina.

The Topock Gorge Unit of Havasu NWR lies on the Colorado River beginning at the I-40 bridge and stretching 18 miles south to the north end of Lake Havasu. Public access points include Topock Gorge Marina, Castle Rock, and Windsor Beach State Park.

For more information call 760-326-3853.

Map Link

Havasu National Wildlife Refuge : Wildlife Viewing Area