The Wildlife Of The Havasu National Wildlife Refuge

Dated: 06/11/2019

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The Wildlife of the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge 

The Wildlife of the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge 


A recent editorial in our local newspaper, Today’s News Herald, captures the essence of why this season is a magnetic draw for many visitors to our city.

Hikers, mountain bikers, motorcycles and side-by-sides all find the warm days and seasonal growth an irresistible mix.

There’s more to the mix, though. More boats are on Lake Havasu. Anglers are watching as the water warms. More stories about the great fishing on Lake Havasu are appearing around the state and region. There’s no season like spring to bring out the best of both the dramatic contrast of sky and desert and the ways they can both be enjoyed.

We agree, which is why we invited Sarah Miller at to create this story about the natural wonders you’ll discover at the spectacular Havasu National Wildlife Refuge during this magical time of year. (NOTE: No affiliation, partnership, recommendation or endorsement is implied with reference to any author, company or product mentioned on this website.)


You might call the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge a piece of our natural past. It’s also a one-stop opportunity to see endangered wildlife and incredible scenery. The refuge straddles the Arizona-California border between Needles, CA and Lake Havasu City, AZ. It includes one of the only remaining natural stretches of the lower Colorado River.

Construction of the Hoover Dam (and others) has changed the river’s natural flow as well as the surrounding landscape. For years, the river ran through desert areas and canyons, and occasional flooding would help sustain plant and animal life. That stopped with the creation of dams along the river. In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge to preserve and protect this precious environment.



In addition to being a vital river habitat, this peaceful parcel of land serves as a transition point between the Mojave and Sonoran deserts. You can soak up the lush desert vegetation while hiking in the Havasu Wilderness. The Creosote bush and ocotillo plant are rugged desert survivors, and you’ll see a lot of them here. The blue-green Palo Verde tree is easy to spot with its blue-green bark and bright yellow flowers. Huge saguaros and barrel cactus round out the native Arizona landscape along with many native plant varieties.

Closer to the river, you’ll find stands of cottonwood and willow trees. The coyote willow grows in abundance here, providing a safe sanctuary for wildlife. The Fremont cottonwood thrives on groundwater and is common in the floodplains of rivers and streams. These trees can grow to 115 feet. Goodding’s willow is another tall tree that loves riparian environments. It can reach a height of 100 feet.



Another big attraction here? The wildlife. Coyotes, foxes, and bobcats live in the Havasu wilderness. You may also see the endangered desert tortoise and the venomous Gila monster (its bite is painful but not fatal to humans). Desert bighorn sheep love the steep canyon walls of Topock Gorge. Thousands of bats live in the refuge’s caves, crevices, and historic mines.



Above all, the refuge is a bird watcher’s paradise. It sits in the path of the Pacific Flyway, a migratory route for birds in the western U.S. You'll find several endangered species here, like the Yuma clapper rail and the southern willow flycatcher. The Western and Clark’s grebes are similar in appearance even though they’re different birds. If you’re lucky, you might catch them performing their water walk, which is more like a synchronized dance. Peregrine falcons and southern bald eagles also grace the skies above the refuge.



There are plenty of ways to enjoy this spectacular site. Whether by boat or on a hike, on a tour or a solo bird watching expedition, you won’t be lacking for activities to help you commune with nature. This preserved piece of natural history is truly a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts.

Written by Sarah Miller. Sarah is a writer, self-claimed nutritionist, and CrossFit junkie. She spends most of her time meal prepping and actively trying to beat personal records in the gym, but always enjoys a meditative walk through a nearby woodland area or near a lake.

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