The Havasu National Wildlife Refuge covers a vast amount of wetlands territory in the Colorado River basin along the Arizona-California Border. Historic Route 66 runs through this preserve, so it is easy to access along the old Oatman Highway alignment near Topock, Arizona. Needles, California offers modern amenities across the border and this town is a nice choice for a civilized Route 66 style basecamp. The towering Needles mountain spires can be seen in the distance and this entire refuge is hemmed in by towering desert mountains that have guided the flow of the Colorado River since prehistoric times. This section of the ancient waterway has always been an important stopover for bird migrations and many species call the wetlands their home for the winter, so this is a great place for late autumn season birding!
Watercraft rentals can be found on both sides of the river and this is important to remember if doing some serious birding is in the plans. The reason why has to do with the nature of Colorado River wetlands in this area. There are a few man made high ground pathways that meander through parts of this big wildlife refuge, but the reeds are very thick along the banks, so the views will be impeded by many obstructions. Therefore, the absolute best way to go about birding in this refuge is to do a light watercraft tour. Kayaking, canoeing or idling around in a John Boat will present far more quality birding opportunities than when setting out on foot. The fishing is good in these waters too, so light craft boating in the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge definitely is a winning proposition.
All sorts of waterfowl, diving birds and local raptors can be seen in the vast marshes in the north end of the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge during the cool weather seasons, so this is the best time of year for a birding venture. The refuge also extends several miles south of the bridge and an entirely different experience awaits down river. The summers can be brutally hot in this region and very few birds will be seen when the temperatures are in the triple digit range. Water certainly does attract wildlife in the desert, so do not be surprised to see deer or bighorn sheep early in the mornings. Primitive camping options can be found in both the Arizona and California BLM, while the conveniences of civilization are nearby. Floating, fishing and birding in this unique desert oasis definitely spells out a great escape, so be sure to keep the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge in mind when touring historic Route 66!
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