Hassayampa River Preserve
A BIRD WATCHER’S PARADISE
Wickenburg is home to the Hassayampa River Preserve, first created by the Nature Conservancy and how managed by Maricopa County Parks, which stretches for 5 miles along the Hassayampa River. The upper Hassayampa River is known as the northern riparian are or Box Canyon. Both locations are excellent for birding, experts have recorded more than 290 species. South-after species include red-shouldered hawks, yellow-billed cuckoos, and vermilion flycatchers. Wickenburg also boasts likely the largest concentration of migrating turkey vultures in the state each fall and spring, with hundreds roosting in tall trees around town, such as near the Hassayampa River Walk pedestrian bridge (where you can also witness thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats emerging at sunset each evening in late summer and early fall! A wide variety of bird species can be observed year-round along the river corridor, so be sure to bring some binoculars and enjoy birding Out Wickenburg Way.
HASSAYAMPA RIVER PRESERVE – AN OASIS IN THE DESERT
The Hassayampa River Preserve encompasses over 70,000 acres of one of the best remaining examples of a rare forest types in North America – the Freemont Cottonwood-Goodding’s Willow riparian forest.
This forest is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including the endangered ‘southwestern’ will flycatcher, and the rare (to Arizona) red-shouldered hawk. This riparian habitat and the wildlife it supports thrive within the Preserve because of the presence of water in the perennially flowing Hassayampa River and spring-fed Palm Lake. Historic California fan palms planted around the old ranch buildings also provide shelter and food to a plethora of wildlife. The bird feeders and native wildflower garden at the Nature Center offer fantastic opportunities to watch colorful hummingbirds and butterflies. While hiking our 3 miles of trails, you might also see gray foxes, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Nearly 30 dragonfly species have been found at the Preserve so far.
Because of these important water sources, humans have occupied this site for at least 2,000 years. In the mid-1860’s, the four-room adobe core of the current Nature Center was built and served as a stagecoach way station. Later in the early 1900’s, new owners made additions to the ranch house to create the first “dude ranch” in the area, one of the enterprises that Wickenburg became best known for. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) purchased the property in 1986 to protect these rare ecological and cultural resources present. In 2017, TNC donated the property as a conservation easement to Maricopa County Parks & Recreation Department to manage and add to the proposed Vulture Mountains Recreation Area adjacent to the Preserve’s western boundary and south of the town of Wickenburg. Altogether, this area will encompass about 71,000 acres and provide local residents and visitors with many recreational opportunities, while also conserving the unique natural and cultural resources of the area for future generations.
The Hassayampa River Preserve is located on U.S. Highway 60, 3 miles southeast of Wickenburg near mile marker 114. The Preserve is currently open Wednesday through Sunday (closed Monday and Tuesday), with winter hours from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. from mid-October to mid-May, and summer hours of 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. from mid-May to mid-October. Admission is $5 per adult (ages 13 and up), children 12 and under are free. Maricopa County Parks annual passes are honored here. For more information on the Preserve and to see a list of upcoming ranger and docent-led programs, please call the Preserve Nature Center at 928-684-2772, or visit the Maricopa County Parks website at www.maricopacountyparks.net
Follow the Preserve on Facebook at facebook.com/Hassayampa.
For up to date information on area trails and other outdoor adventures, call or stop by the Wickenburg Chamber Office, a chamber produced book, “Wickenburg Adventures” backcountry guidebook, may also be purchased to help you navigate the beautiful surrounding areas.
- Summer Hours (May – September): Wed-Sun: 7:00a.m. – 4:00p.m. (trails close at 3:30pm), closed Mondays and Tuesday
- Winter Hours (October – April): Wed-Sun: 8:00a.m. – 5:00p.m. (trails close at 4:30pm), closed Mondays and Tuesdays
Call the Preserve Visitor Center at (928) 684-2772 for information on programming and other events.