The current shutdown of the federal government is having a significant impact on birders as we try to figure out which of our favorite birding locations are off-limits, and which are still accessible. On a recent trip to southeastern Arizona, I relied on very helpful listserv postings to find out which areas I could still visit. Visitors to the Colorado River and environs will find many of the popular birding areas closed off. Below I will summarize the closure status of some of the hotspots, and some alternatives to visit.
North of Needles
All land within the Lake Mead NRA is closed. This includes Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, and Willow Beach.
I’m not certain of the status of some of the birding spots in that area. It may still be possible to park and scan above Hoover Dam, and some locations above and/or below Davis Dam. If anyone has information on those locations, please share.
Update from Jason Wilder: “The Hoover Dam visitor facilities are open, and will remain so according to their website, meaning the Lake Mead can be visited in the vicinity of the dam. Last week (during the closure) I was able to drive over the dam and park in the lots on the AZ side, where good views up from the dam can be had.”
Bullhead City birding is an alternative to visiting Lake Mohave. The Colorado River winding through the city can provide good birding and has many access points.
The Mohave Valley is all either private or Reservation land. As fall progresses and winter approaches, the agricultural fields in the area can provide excellent birding (Glossy Ibis, Trumpeter Swan, and three species of longspur have been seen).
Further east in Kingman, Hualapai Mountain Park is county-operated so open as usual.
Needles to Lake Havasu City
Havasu National Wildlife Refuge is completely closed. This includes walking onto the refuge. Note that this refuge is actually quite large. Birding spots such as Pintail Slough and North Dike, Five-Mile Landing, Beal Lake and Bermuda Pasture within the Topock Marsh area are off-limits.
Also closed within this refuge are some of the best birding spots in Lake Havasu City. Cape Havasu and Mesquite Bay (both north and south) are closed.
Fortunately, there are alternatives for birding Lake Havasu City. Lake Havasu State Park is a good start. If you tell the gate attendant that you want to just hike the trails, it will cost $3 per person (and the trails are where the birding is). They will point you toward the parking for the trail. This will then lead you through some lakeside riparian and brushy areas, as well as to hills from which you can scan for the continuing Brown Booby and other water birds.
The Island (Pittsburgh Point) and Rotary Park are other good options. Nothing within these two areas is closed. Do note, however, that these areas will be a zoo this weekend (October 11-13) with various boating events.
Lake Havasu City to Parker
The Bill Williams River NWR is closed. Unfortunately there is no alternative for Planet Ranch Road. For scanning the Bill Williams Delta, note that the headquarters is closed, but there are various roadside pulloffs that provide decent views, as well as Havasu Springs. Two Blue-footed Boobies are currently frequenting the area.
Parker Dam is open and operating as usual, so birders can still scan above and below the dam. The one closure here is Take-Off Point above the dam. The old government housing below the dam is off-limits anyway, so as usual can still be birded from the road.
Private areas within the Parker Strip are open as usual (at least places that are open to the public or birders), but BLM recreation areas are closed. This includes Quail Hollow and Bullfrog.
Headgate Dam/Moovalya Lake can be accessed and scanned as usual.
Parker to Cibola
‘Ahakhav Tribal Preserve and other CRIT lands (e.g. the Parker Valley) are open.
Restoration areas away from NWRs, including Palo Verde Restoration Area and Cibola Valley Conservation Area, are partially state-operated and should be open with the usual restrictions (see posted signage).
Cibola NWR is closed.
North of Yuma
Imperial NWR is closed, but Fishers Landing is a privately owned area of Martinez Lake, so at least some of the lake should be open to scanning.
Picacho SRA and Mittry Lake are state-operated, so should be open.
I don’t have information on some of the other hotspots in the area, especially around Imperial Dam. Senator Wash Reservoir is largely or entirely federally operated, so is probably closed. Please share if you have more information about these areas.
The shutdown is making birding a bit more difficult, but there are still alternatives and great places to go in the LCRV!