The Cibola National Wildlife Refuge is in southwest Arizona and straddles the Colorado River that runs between California and Arizona. The headquarters is on the Arizona side and we stayed on BLM land near there. It was the perfect getaway and much needed by both of us.

What a wonderful oasis in the middle of the desert! One of the things that surprised us most is that both of us have camped in this area for 3 winters now and neither one of us had ever visited here before. It’s not difficult to get to, but it was a little tricky to find. Every wrong turn, every stop to check the map was totally worth it!

Of all the available attractions, I’m not sure which I enjoyed more – the one mile Nature Trail, the Canada Goose Drive, the Hart Mine Marsh or the drive down the levee road to Cibola Lake. There were birds everywhere, and we saw rabbits and deer too.

You can hear me at the end of the video saying, “Es una adventura!” Translation, “It’s an adventure!” And it was.

The trails, drives and views were AWEmazing.

I was shocked to hear gunfire though. Saddened really. I get that it is a form of habitat management and a way to control the numbers, but I don’t like it. I especially don’t get how it can be considered hunting when they build a habitat for the birds to come to, to nest in, procreate in, and then give you a place to sit and shoot.

From viewer Julie M:

Here’s a succinct tidbit from the US National Fish & Wildlife Service …. “Though the primary function of wildlife refuges is to protect and foster wildlife populations, some wildlife refuges contain harvestable surpluses.”

From the Cibola NWR page:

Public hunting on Cibola National Wildlife Refuge is permitted in specified areas. Hunting opportunities are available for the following species: Canada geese, snow geese, ducks, coots, gallinules, Gambel’s quail, mourning and white-winged doves, mule deer (bow, gun, muzzle loader), and cottontail rabbits.

But there were only two downers to this entire outing. That they allow hunting here  was one of them (which also meant gunfire was a constant). Otherwise, what a treasure trove this place is!

From their website, the Refuge shares that

  • Wildlife thrives in this environment where temperatures reach 120 degrees in the summer and the average rainfall is two inches per year, and
  • The Yuma Tribes of the Colorado River farmed the river‘s floodplain, which flooded annually depositing rich soils for crops.

The camp host told us that they built the levees to control flooding and direct the water. Note the website states tribes “farmED” the river’s floodplain. As in past tense. For me, that was the other downer. History shows we have not been kind to our Native Tribes. I hope that was not the case here. Now, through conservation and resource efforts, they are trying to bring back the marshes and re-create what used to be readily available here, including the quantity of birds.

As part of our tour, we were told that what used to number in the hundreds of thousands of migratory birds, now numbers in the low thousands. In the video, Robert shows you the sign where they display the current count. While there is still an amazing number of birds at the refuge (!), it is dismal compared to what it used to be before they built the levees in the 1960s to gain control of the water.

The other factor that affects the low count is climate change.

Signs of a rapidly changing climate are evident in the Southwest region. We see many flowers blooming earlier, lakes freezing later, and birds altering migration patterns.

Their climate page offers a lot of valuable information and resources as well as a list of how we can help. This list is geared mainly toward stix&brix living, but even nomads can adopt a lot of these lifestyle changes:

  • Plant native trees and shrubs that absorb carbon dioxide and slow the spread of invasive species
  • Recycle paper, plastics, glass
  • Reuse products when possible
  • Use recycled products that use less energy to manufacture
  • Change to energy efficient light bulbs and appliances
  • Reduce gasoline consumption — walk or bike whenever you can
  • Program your thermostat

We will go back to this magical place again, and I hope to see higher counts there when we do. We were told it will never return to what it was, but improvement is expected. The Refuge lays out a 15 year plan on their Conservation page. Places like this are dwindling more and more, rapidly. I hope they continue to get the support they need to carry out and realize their goals.

Look at the last photo of Cibola Lake, facing California, again. Fires can, and do, jump rivers. It was surreal and made us appreciate this wonderful refuge and delicate ecosystem even more.