Memories of Havasu NWR

Ladder-Backed Woodpecker - Dryobates scalarisAlong the Colorado River between Lake Havasu City and Bullhead City Arizona is Havasu National Wildlife Refuge. My visits to this refuge have been at the northern section, between Interstate 40 and Bullhead City.

Leaving Interstate 40 east of the Colorado River, is the Oatman Highway. I often start my tour of the riverside marshes to the north from here. The road leaves I-40, goes under a railroad trestle and emerges in front of a road house bar and restaurant called Topock66, where a boating channel connects the river to backwater marshes. The elevated parking area here offers good views to gaze over the waterway. You may find interesting waterfowl on the calm water. One of these days I hope to launch my kayak from the boat launch here and explore the marshes from these waterways.

A little over 2 miles north, next to Topock Marsh is Catfish Paradise. A short side road will deliver the willing explorer to a large dirt parking area with adjacent floating docks and waterless restrooms. From this lot, a bird loving adventurer can chase desert passerines and owls inland, or any number of water-loving birds on the shallow lake to the south.

Travelling north, the Oatman Highway leaves the river valley at the town of Golden Shores, and carries travelers to the eccentric and historical mining town of Oatman (but that’s another story all-together). County Route 1 leaves the Oatman Highway here and follows the river and marshes to the final stop I like to make when visiting this part of Havasu NWR. Pintail Slough is eight miles north of Catfish Paradise. A dirt road exits the highway leading southwest, and a short drive through the alluvial desert scrub, leads to a dirt parking lot by a shallow lake and wetlands. Here one can connect to hiking and biking trails that meander through this habitat, and provide a wealth of possibilities for bird and wildlife encounters. Some of these trails lead all the way to the main river channel.

Besides the locations mentioned above, there are several gated roads that lead from the highway to the Colorado River. An adventurous explorer could hike or bike these trails and explore the back-water marshes in this flood-plain.

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