Cibola National Wildlife Refuge
Boat launch area (electric trolling motors only), Cibola National Wildlife Refuge
Cibola National Wildlife Refuge is located in a floodplain of the lower Colorado River. Most of the management work here revolves around restoring and flooding the old river meanders and backwaters, and revegetating those areas with native plants and grasses. Since all the dams have been constructed on the lower Colorado, a lot of the river's original natural riparian zones have been inundated and destroyed. Cibola NWR encompasses both the historic river channel and a channelized portion of the river built in the late 1960's. That area also includes several important backwater areas that are used by the hundreds of thousands of migratory and resident birds that call this area "Home" for at least part of the year. This is one large riparian area surrounded by a fringe of desert washes and ridges.
More than 288 species of birds have been documented at Cibola NWR. It's estimated that maybe 85% of the wintering Canada goose population in Arizona is on Cibola NWR. There's also desert mule deer, coyote and bobcat on the property. You might also come across the endangered desert tortoise, bonytail chub, razorback sucker and desert pupfish if you look hard enough on this property.
Most of Cibola National Wildlife Refuge east of the main channel of the river is closed from Labor Day to March 15 so the nesting birds get some peace and quiet from the humans. Fishing west of the main channel is allowed during regular seasons. You'll find largemouth and smallmouth bass, channel catfish, striped bass, flathead catfish, sunfish, tilapia, crappie and common carp in these waters, but you'll want to have a valid Colorado River fishing stamp and the appropriate state fishing license on you if any of these is found in your possession.
Hunting is allowed in some areas in season but you'll need the hunting license for the state you're in, plus the federal and state waterfowl hunting stamps that go with that license.
The Visitor Center at Cibola NWR is open Monday through Friday, 8 am to 4:30 pm, year round. Between November 1 and March 1, the Visitor Center is also open Saturdays from 9 am to 3 pm, and Sundays from 10 am to 3 pm. Canada Goose Drive is the 3-mile-long auto tour route, open from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Along Canada Goose Drive you'll find the trailhead for the 1-mile Nature Trail loop. In addition to the opportunity to see thousands of Canada geese, ducks, sandhill cranes and snow geese, the Nature Trail also offers an elevated observation deck where, if you are quiet, you can watch all the wildlife feeding in the whole area. At the southern end of Cibola NWR is the Cibola Lake overlook: an elevated cliff which is the only place from which you can see what's happening on the Refuge all year round.
Cibola National Wildlife Refuge area map