Memories of Cibola NWR

Northern Pintail - Anas acutaI like out-of-the-way places, and Cibola National Wildlife Refuge is such a place. Located along the Colorado River between California Route-78 and the low range of rocky desert mountains lining the Arizona side of the river, is the small town of Cibola Arizona. Highway access via rough dirt roads is possible from the Arizona side, though not advisable. It’s best to drive here from the California side of the river.

More of a rural community than a “town”, Cibola is 25 miles south of Blythe California, the nearest neighboring town of any size. It’s not the town that draws me in. It’s the wildlife reserve just south of town that I come to see. This reserve was established to resurrect the floodplain habitats of the lower Colorado River Valley that were common before the dams interrupted the natural cycles of the river.

My experiences at Cibola NWR have centered on the section I call the Goose Loop. Entering at the Visitor Center, the road drops to the agricultural fields where in season, geese and cranes graze on the crops grown on their behalf. Also possible along the length of this auto-tour route are blackbirds, waders, larks, shrikes, bluebirds, raptors and other birds.

North of the agricultural fields is a wooded grove where a “Nature Trail” penetrates and provides nature-loving explorers the opportunity to meet riparian-loving birds and wildlife. At the northern edge of the woods is a shallow, weedy field that gets flooded in winter. Observation points are positioned at the boundary between the woodland and field, where interested observers may enjoy encounters with waterfowl and other birds. A word of caution though; on my most recent late summer visit to the Nature Trail, I encountered maddening swarms of the hungriest mosquitoes I’ve met since I was in Alaska.

The reserve has two more locations I’ve not yet explored. Cibola Lake and Hart Mine Marsh are places I am looking forward to getting acquainted with in the future.

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