Over 288 species of birds have been found on Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, including many species of migratory songbirds, Gambel’s quail, roadrunners, mourning and white-winged doves, phainopepla, greater sandhill cranes, Canada and snow geese, Vermilion flycatchers, grosbeaks and many more. The bald eagle, southwestern willow flycatcher and Yuma clapper rail are among the endangered birds that use Cibola Refuge. Other listed species include the desert tortoise, razorback sucker, bonytail chub, and desert pupfish.
It is not uncommon to see desert mule deer, bobcat, and coyotes on the refuge, particularly while driving the auto tour loop in the early morning or evening. Management of farm fields along with restoration of wetlands and moist soil units provide habitat for thousands of Canada geese that migrate to Cibola in the winter. About 85% of Arizona’s wintering goose population resides on Cibola NWR.
A host of species reside on the refuge year-around. Many of the aquatic birds nest in the backwaters of the river. It is a common sight to see western and Clark’s grebe young riding on their parents’ back in Cibola Lake during the spring. Other common sights may include a heron and egret rookery, nesting mourning and white-winged doves, barn owls, burrowing owls, kestrels, white-faced ibis and more.
Cibola NWR offers a variety of recreational opportunities. Displays and interpretive information are available at the visitor center, which is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. From the visitor center, drive a short distance to the 3-mile auto tour loop (also known as Canada Goose Drive). This drive is open from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. Along this drive, stop and take a short walk around the Nature Trail. The Nature Trail is a one-mile loop that will take the visitor through three different native habitats; cottonwood, mesquite, and willow. Half-way around the trail, the winter visitor will view thousands of Canada geese, snow geese, ducks and sandhill cranes in a 20-acre pond from an elevated observation deck designed to allow the wildlife to feed and loaf without being disturbed and allow the quiet visitor to experience these wildlife up close.
See the Cibola Lake overlook located at the southern end of the refuge and view grebes, ducks, pelicans, geese, cormorants, terns, and more from an elevated cliff overlooking the southern end of the lake. Cibola Lake is closed from Labor Day to March 15 in order to provide the wintering waterfowl a safe and undisturbed place to roost, but you can enjoy them from a distance on the overlook.
Please remember the following rules while visiting the refuge.
- All vehicles must stay on designated roads.
- Visitor access is limited – Contact the refuge for more information
- Plan ahead – there are no facilities for gasoline or food on the refuge. The only restrooms and drinking water are available at the visitor center.
- Camping is not permitted on the refuge. Camping facilities are located nearby.
- Fires are not permitted on the refuge.
- Pets must be leashed and under close control at all times.
- Boating and water skiing are permitted on the main channel of the Colorado River. The
Old river channel, Cibola Lake, Three Fingers Lake, and all other backwaters are
classified as “no-wake” zones for public safety and to protect and enhance wildlife use.
- All plant and animal species are protected. Disturbing or removing plants or animals
is not permitted.
- Dumping litter, sewage, or liquid waste on the refuge is not permitted.
- Searching for and removing, defacing, or damaging rocks, minerals, or semi-precious stones and objects of antiquity is not permitted.