A Watery Oasis -> Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, AZ
We take a break from our scheduled programming to relax and recharge our minds. For this purpose I’m going to transport you to a watery oasis in a land far, far away.
Imagine yourself thus…
You’re deep in a cottonwood forest. You’re alone here, of course, because no one knows this secret place. You’re walking on a hidden trail with yellow trees that bow and curve towards each other high over your head, like long-lost lovers reaching across the sky. The wind rustles soothingly through the leaves and the sweet sound of birds chatters amongst them. You follow the path to a large lake, stopping to admire the paw tracks of a bobcat and the millions of leaf patterns on the ground.
And then you see them.
Not one, not even ten, but hundreds and thousands of birds. They pack the water like bees swarming in a hive. Canadian Geese, snow geese, ducks and more are intermingled in one enormous moving mass…preening, playing, fighting, loving and talking. The sound is incredible, like some kind of crazy symphony as everyone talks and squawks, notes and voices rising and falling in crescendo as each section makes its call. Then something spooks them and they rise like a black tidal wave, calling loudly and flapping in intricate patterns until they soothe themselves and settle back down. It’s incredibly peaceful and oddly soothing. A world away from the harsh, desert environment of the past weeks.
And yet we’ve only come ~50 miles north.
Welcome to the little known secret of Cibola National Wildlife Refuge.
The Wildlife Refuges of Arizona are some of the state’s most surprising hidden gems. Mixed amongst cactus and crazy rocky desert plains you’ll find sweet, moist, green slices of wildlife heaven. We visited our first one (Buenos Aires) last year and we’ve been planning for more ever since. Along the fertile banks of the Colorado River there are no less than 4 AZ refuges, two of which (Imperial and Cibola) occupy ~40-mile stretch between Blythe and Yuma. Within these refuges you can find over 250 species of birds and enjoy an environment so different from the desert it seems like a totally different country. When we’ve had our fill of dry, we come here to link with the water and replenish our lust for green.
Such a treat it is!
We chose Cibola primarily because we had inside connections….people connections. Our RV buddies Rick and JoAnne, and Joe and Marlene have both been volunteering here for the winter, offering 3 days a week for a lovely full hookup site by the refuge. Joe, in particular, is a very accomplished photographer and spends much of his free time with his camera and very long lens (yes, I have lens envy), so if you want to see some amazing pics of the wildlife here and other areas he’s traveled, check out his website. They invited us over, and we took the opportunity to re-join with our Technomadia buddies (who were just coming out of the craziness of Quartszite) to stay for a week and enjoy the refuge.
Who could refuse good friends, guaranteed Happy Hour and a personalized tour? Plus, all of these folks are lovely people, and I was curious to hear about their jobs here
The refuge met all my expectations and more. It’s a sweet little spot with several lake areas, a driving tour and a short hike amongst the cottonwoods. Plus there are nearby historic attractions such as Cibola Cabin and Hart Mine. We stayed outside the refuge and spent several days enjoying the birds and exploring the area. Perfect!
Tomorrow we’ll be moving on to new areas, plus I’ll be (hopefully) finishing up my boondocking series and (maybe) starting to work on something even bigger (we’ll see). We’re also in the throws of our yearly planning and have a very general, loose plan to go vaguely North for a few weeks after which we may shoot to San Diego for some beach and big city time before we (once again) head north for Spring. This summer we’re headed to OR/WA (no surprise there) with tentative end of year plans to new sights further east. It’s still all very “jello” but it’s slowly coming together. When we’ll know, you’ll know.
In the meantime if you’re in the area DO come by and see the Cibola Refuge. Our volunteer buddies staff the visitor’s center from 8-3:30 daily. Visitors have to remain in their cars on the loop drive (to avoid disturbing wildlife), but people and dogs are allowed to walk on the 1-mile refuge nature trail on site.