The Havasu National Wildlife Refuge

The Havasu National Wildlife Refuge was created on January 22, 1941 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Havasu NWR offers the opportunity to enjoy a variety of recreational activities including fishing, hunting, birding, boating, and hiking. You can spend all day fishing or kayaking on the Topock Marsh, Colorado River, Topock Gorge, or Lake Havasu. Birders can enjoy a short bird walk at Catfish Paradise, or spend more time birding at Bermuda Pasture, Pintail Slough, North Dike, or South Dike.

Wildlife observation, boating, and fishing are allowed on the refuge year round except in areas closed to public access. Hunting is permitted on the refuge in specific areas under date, time, and other restrictions; consult the official Refuge website for more information. 

An overview of the Havasu NWR is best achieved by dividing the Refuge into three areas: Topock Marsh, the Topock Gorge, and the northern Lake Havasu area. A description of these areas follows:

Topock Marsh

This area of the Havasu NWR is located North of Interstate 40 and features varied habitat and multiple recreational opportunities. A slow-moving section of the Colorado River is accessible from several levee roads paralleling the River. Topock Marsh is an area of the original Colorado River flood plain that was isolated from the present river channel when levees were constructed. The marsh is dotted with the trunks of trees from a Honey Mesquite forest that was flooded when the realignment of the river channel was completed. The tree trunks offer shelter for bass, catfish, crappie, and other fish, as well as roosts and nesting sites for the many varieties of migratory and resident birds which frequent the area.

Points of interest in Topock Marsh for boaters include boat launch ramps at Catfish Paradise, Five-Mile Landing, and North Dike. A fourth privately-owned launch ramp is located at Topock Marina, a resort located just north of the Interstate 40 crossing of the Colorado River; a restaurant is currently (early 2013) under construction at this site, and the Marina is being rebuilt, so launching at this location is closed on occasion. The Colorado River is accessible by boat from the Topock Marina; access to the River by boat from Catfish, Five-Mile, and North Dike is not possible due to levees. If the Topock Marina launch ramp is closed, an alternate launch site is Park Moabi, located in California several miles north of the I-40 crossing of the Colorado River.

The wildlife viewing and birding opportunities in the Topock Marsh area are numerous. New South Dike, South Dike, Catfish Paradise, and Five-Mile Landing are good areas in the southern marsh to take easy, short to medium length birdwalks. The levees that form New South Dike and South Dike are lined with cottonwoods, willows, and tamarisks, and feature a variety of bird life. Both dikes also feature water control structures located approximately one half mile from their parking areas; the structures offer good views of the marsh and its back bays. Catfish Paradise also features a fishing pier from which good views of the southern portion of the marsh are available.

On the northern end of the marsh, North Dike, and particularly Pintail Slough, offer great birding opportunities. Pintail Slough features numerous acres of farm fields which are planted by the Refuge to provide sustenance to migrating waterfowl. The fields are lined with cottonwood trees, and areas of the slough are typically flooded in the winter. Pintail Slough and several other areas of the Refuge are also open to hunting during waterfowl season; consult the official Refuge website for more information. Pintail Slough also features duck blinds for hunters (reservations required).

Bermuda Pasture is located on the west side of the marsh, and is accessible from the levee road which parallels the Colorado River; a wildlife observation tower at Bermuda Pasture often features views of migratory geese feeding in the pasture in the winter. A second wildlife observation tower is located several miles south of Bermuda Pasture at Beal Lake; the Beal Lake tower offers a 360 degree view of the southern marsh.

Topock Gorge

Topock Gorge features the Havasu Wilderness area, and is one of the last remaining relatively natural sections of the lower Colorado River valley. Access to the Wilderness area is available at several entrances along Arizona Highway 95 by entering through public BLM land, or by river through the Topock Gorge. Motor vehicles and camping are not allowed in the wilderness area. There are no maintained trails or roads in the wilderness area. Hikers are cautioned to bring plenty of water and a map or GPS. Cell phone service is limited.

Lake Havasu Area

The northern Lake Havasu area of the Havasu NWR features five public access areas: Castle Rock, Mesquite Bay, Mesquite Bay North, Mesquite Bay Central, and Mesquite Bay South. Non-motorized boat launching is available at Castle Rock, Mesquite Bay, and Mesquite Bay Central. Mesquite Bay, Mesquite Bay North, and Mesquite Bay South feature fishing piers. Mesquite Bay North also features restrooms and an interpretive trail.

To view a .pdf map showing the general location of the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, click HERE

To view a .pdf map showing details and features of the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge itself, click HERE
To go to the official website of the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, click HERE

Check out this wonderful video of geese arriving at Bermuda Pasture in Havasu NWR by Friend John West:

Friends of the Bill Williams River and Havasu National Wildlife Refuges