This is great area with an
excellent mix of habitats. Sandhill Cranes, geese, Bald
Eagles, and waterfowl are the biggest draws, but wintering
sparrows are second to none! In addition, there are
bittern, migrant warblers and flycatchers, and a long list of
breeding birds. Raptors are not uncommon here, and it's one of
the few areas I've seen Golden Eagle and White-tailed Kite on
multiple occasions. Cibola's location along the Colorado
River guarantees that rare vagrants will also turn up and may be
spotted by the persistent birder.
around many of the riparian areas
Cibola Lake - watch for
Bald Eagles here!
Site #8 on the Yuma
Getting here from the intersection of 1st Street and 4th
Ave takes about 1.5 hours (79 miles):
- Drive north on 4th Ave
.3 miles and get onto I-8 westbound immediately after crossing the
- Drive west 15 miles on I-8 to the Ogilby Road exit.
- Drive north on Ogilby Road for 39 miles.
- At the CA Hwy 78 "T" intersection, turn right. Drive east and north on Hwy 78 for
approximately 23 miles.
- Turn right on a gravel road, which is "sometimes" signed
"Colorado River/Cibola NWR". Follow this road past Oxbow
Lake and turn left onto the levee road--heading north.
- You'll soon see a sign to Cibola NWR--turn right here and cross over the Colorado River Channel Bridge. Turn
right and follow the levee
road south along the river for about .5 miles. Turn left on Baseline
Road and take it east about 3 (?) miles.
- At the three-way intersection turn right (south) onto River Road and follow it
to the refuge entrance.
spots correspond with the map on the right. Thanks to
Brenda Zaun for contributing to these hints!)
you exit CA Hwy 78, this lake will soon appear on your
left. Look for gulls, tern, waders, kingfishers, and
waterfowl in various seasons. A county park on Hwy 78
affords further views and a restroom.
driving east on Baseline, watch the fields north of the road for
Tundra Swans and Sandhill Cranes. A hunting club at
"2" has a large pond with good varieties of waterfowl
during the winter. You can view the pond well from the
3) Cornfield Nature Trail
The parking lot for the Nature Trail
is about ˝ mile after entering the auto tour loop. The 1-mile Nature Trail (a walking trail) loops around through mesquite, cottonwood, and willow forests. Halfway around the trail, visit an elevated observation deck that overlooks a 20-acre pond where thousands of geese, cranes, and ducks congregate at mid-day to drink. During spring and fall migration, the forests attract numerous warblers including MacGillivray’s, orange-crowned, Wilson’s, black-throated gray, hermit, and Townsend’s. This is also a great place to see blue grosbeaks, western tanagers and Lazuli buntings. During the summer, mourning doves and western kingbirds nest there along with an occasional Vermilion flycatcher.
Self-guided auto tour (3-mile drive)
From Cibola NWR visitor center, continue northwest through red gates (there are signs). This drive is also called Goose Loop and Canada Goose Drive. From late October through February, the farm fields surrounding this drive are full of Canada, snow, and
Ross’ geese. Mid-late September is the best time to see white-fronted geese as they are passing through on
migration-- occasionally several will winter on the refuge. The largest portion of the lower Colorado River population of greater sandhill cranes winter on the refuge as well as thousands of ducks including mallard, northern pintail, Am. wigeon, ring-necked, ruddy, northern shoveler, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, and cinnamon teal.
It is not uncommon to see bald eagles and golden eagles in the farm fields. An occasional peregrine falcon has visited also. American kestrels, northern harriers, and prairie falcons are common sights during the winter. Kestrels are here year-round and nest in the artificial nest boxes we have provided for them. Watch for these on the utility poles as you drive around the loop.
5) Island Unit
Continue south on Cibola Lake Road approximately 4 miles past the refuge headquarters and turn right on Island Unit Road. Cross the bridge and continue west. Stop at the kiosk to obtain a permit (no charge). Continue west and turn left at the first dirt road across an irrigation canal. This road will take you along a restored historic river meander, some farm fields, and moist soil units where waterfowl and shorebirds congregate. Some of the birds seen here include white-faced ibis, American avocet, black terns, dowitchers, killdeer, black-necked stilts, sandpipers, cattle - snowy - great egrets, great blue and black-crowned night herons, American bitterns, yellowlegs, and common snipe.
6) Hart Mine Marsh
Hart Mine Marsh is open from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. It is an attractive roost to waterfowl, herons, and egrets. Yuma clapper rails nest here as well as in Cibola Lake. Least bitterns are commonly seen in the marsh and in Cibola Lake.
Levee Road which borders the Colorado River on both the east and
west side gives you fine vantage points to both the river and
surrounding riparian areas.
8) Cibola Lake
Cibola Lake is closed in the winter to provide a safe, undisturbed roosting area for wintering waterfowl and other wildlife. However, you can view geese, ducks, Clark’s, western, and pied-billed grebes on a high cliff overlooking the southern portion of the lake. This is a great place to view bald eagles too. They are often seen perched on the snags within the lake. The lake opens on March 15 and is a great place to birdwatch from a canoe or kayak. The only motors allowed on the lake are trolling motors.
here for Overview Map
the birding suggestions on the left
Blue areas are water (canals, rivers, ponds, marshes, etc.)
grassy spots are
= rest room
Osprey along the Colorado River