Kofa National Wildlife Refuge Overview
Most visitors to Kofa NWR will be satisfied only by a trip to Palm Canyon. A half-mile trail leads from a parking area to a stopping point at a small sign where the palm trees can be seen in the higher reaches of a side canyon to the left. They are best seen midday when the sun illuminates them. Take binoculars to see both the palms and the birds that are sure to be there. Allow at least one hour for the round-trip hike to see the palm trees. Two other access roads are at mile markers 92 and 95. Climbing up to the palms or beyond on the main trail should only be done by persons in good physical condition. But all will be spellbound by the views of the volcanic formations of the Kofa Mountains and the desert floor seen in descent.
Although over 300 miles of roads crisscross the refuge, most are only accessible with high-clearance and all-wheel-drive vehicles. Hiking is permitted anywhere on the refuge as is camping. Because of wilderness designation, vehicles must remain within 100 feet of roads. Camping is not permitted closer than a mile to waterholes so as to not interfere with animal access. It is best to check at refuge headquarters in Yuma for current conditions before venturing deep into the refuge.
Rock or mineral collecting is only allowed in the Crystal Hill area at the northern edge of the refuge. Digging is not permitted and collectors are limited to either ten specimens or ten pounds. Hunting for quail, mule deer, cottontail rabbit, coyote, and fox is also allowed. Details are available from the refuge headquarters.
Kofa is a Place with a Past
Early pioneers went to the Kofa Mountains in southwest Arizona for gold and silver and whatever other minerals they could mine for money. Most of the lead for bullets used in World War II originated here. General George Patton conducted desert training exercises here. The range became the Kofa NWR in 1976, and about 82 percent of it was declared designated wilderness in 1990. Now wildlife observers visit this desert and mountain area to see the only native palm trees growing in Arizona and hope to see at least one desert bighorn sheep.
The refuge measures 40 miles from its southern to northern border; 27 miles between its east and west borders. Three mountain ranges separated by desert valleys dominate the landscape. Although the mountains are more rugged than high, Signal Peak in the Kofa Mountains rises some 3,000 feet above the desert floor. One of the most visited parts of the refuge is Palm Canyon. Located on the west end of the Kofa Mountains, it is well known for its native but misnamed California fan palm trees.
From I-8 in California, take the Winterhaven Drive and Fourth Avenue Exit S into Yuma, Arizona. Office is located at first intersection. To Refuge: From Yuma, take Highway 95 N towards Quartzite, Arizona, to refuge entrance signs.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
Kofa National Wildlife Refuge Travel Q&A
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