Desert Sanctuary ~ Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, AZ

This past weekend we made a quick trip to Yuma where we met up with our new travel buddy, an Arctic Fox truck camper. After much research we decided upon this mode of travel as we begin our tentative plans to tour Alaska next year. We are also planning to take this little guy out when we hit the road in a couple of months just to see how living in it will feel for several months. This should be interesting. 😉 Actually, it does have one slide-out so it is roomier than one might think. Put some solar on top and we are good to go!

Our cute little Fox!
Our cute little Fox!

Cibola National Wildlife Refuge was on my radar after reading the great post Nina had written on this desert sanctuary so we headed that way once our business in Yuma was complete.  With BLM land right across from the visitor center, it was the perfect place to enjoy our first night in the cozy confines of our little Fox.

Canada and snow geese still grace the ponds.
White pelicans, one of my favorites!

Cibola’s 16,600 acres sit in the lower Colorado River floodplain, a green swath of land tucked into the desert between Arizona and California.  This greenbelt is a major flyway for migrating birds, and many songbirds’ diets rely on the insects that are attracted to the flowering honey mesquite trees in the area.  Thanks to an arrangement with some of the local farmers, harvested corn fields draw many species of birds and other wildlife as well…plant them and they will come. 🙂  The sandhill crane population, mid-December through mid-January, can often number 2,000 birds.  They were rather elusive during our visit and reduced in number, off in a field not accessible to the public. We were content to be voyeurs and gaze from a distance, listening to their unusual vocal callings, since we had a close encounter with these beauties last winter near Fort Pierce, FL.

An adorable burrowing owl kept his eye on my every move.
A field full of yellow-headed blackbirds, a new sighting for me.
A field full of yellow-headed blackbirds, a new sighting for me.

It was fortuitous that this little adventure came together when it did, as we had wanted to meet up with fellow RVers and bloggers Rick and JoAnne, volunteers at Cibola through the end of February.  They were just as lovely as we had been told by others, and we enjoyed some snacks and a nice bottle of wine while getting to know them better.  The added bonus was meeting Joe and Murlene, also volunteers, who led us into the refuge as they found us sitting alongside the road planning our route.  Joe very kindly took us on a private tour, pointing out many of the local waterfowl and other wildlife that make this their winter home.  I learned through Nina’s post of Cibola and talking with Joe that he has an extensive background as a photographer, one that he refers to as a hobby but looks to rival most professionals imho.  Check out his website here and see for yourself the beauty he so artfully captures in nature.

The waterfowl are dwindling as they begin to feel the call of cooler climes but there is still much to seduce your senses.  Summer here in the desert can be harsh, when temps can soar to 120° F.  Soon the ponds will be quieted, where there was a cacophony of sounds just weeks ago, with standing-room only.

Cibola Cabin, home to Carl Bishop, until the river overflowed its banks.
Cibola Cabin, home to Carl Bishop, until the river overflowed its banks.

When you tire of all the colorful wildlife, just down the road from the ponds is the historic Cibola Cabin and Hart Mine.  You might just find a few wild burros foraging in the desert if you are lucky.

Peak time for visiting is mid-December through mid-January but we still found this little desert oasis delightful.  If you find yourself wandering in the desert between Blythe and Yuma, consider a visit to Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, a sparkling little desert gem. 🙂

Last rays against a desert mountain backdrop.

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