Wildlife viewing in the US South West

Old Aug 26th, 2015, 03:02 PM
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Wildlife viewing in the US South West

We're planning to take a 4-6 week road trip from California to Austin, TX (to visit my husband's family over the Christmas/New Year holidays) and back. We enjoy wildlife viewing and bird watching and will mostly be driving through Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas, possibly southern Utah, probably not Colorado as the trip is already ballooning into something bigger by the day! Current plans are to roughly take 10 out and 40 back hitting Scottsdale and/or Tucson, Bosque del Apache, White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns, Guadalupe Mountains, Davis Mountains, possibly Big Bend though I'm having difficulty finding accommodations close to Christmas, Santa Fe, Taos, Petrified Forest, Monument Valley, then either Sedona or up into southern Utah. We've been to the Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion so will probably skip those in favor of something new. In addition we will be spending a little over a week in the Austin area. Just wanted to know if there are any particular wildlife areas on or close to our route that I should be looking into. I may even be persuaded to detour into Colorado. We don't need recs in California as we can do that anytime and will be taking the quickest routes in and out of the state. Thanks!
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Old Aug 26th, 2015, 03:17 PM
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Besides Bosque del Apache, there is the Sevilleta Wildlife Refuge between Socorro and Albuquerque. There's also one near Carlsbad. This link will take you to a map of the refuges.
http://www.fws.gov/refuges/maps/index.html

Lee Ann
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Old Aug 26th, 2015, 03:35 PM
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Here's a wolf sanctuary - http://www.wildspiritwolfsanctuary.org
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Old Aug 26th, 2015, 03:39 PM
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>

And if you're a Game of Thrones fan, it's a pet project of the books' author. He's raised a good bit of money for it.
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Old Aug 27th, 2015, 06:46 AM
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> Just wanted to know if there are any particular wildlife areas
> on or close to our route that I should be looking into.

It's been my experience that wildlife viewing in the desert southwest is even more of a crap shoot than in other areas. Because of heat and lack of hiding places, animals rarely come out of their dens in the daylight. Big Bend MIGHT be your best bet, due to its diversity of habitat
http://www.nps.gov/bibe/learn/nature/animals.htm
but even there, I'd consider a major sighting to be a blessing.

When you get to Texas, however, there IS one animal to watch for!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ub2lgjWxsRY
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Old Aug 27th, 2015, 10:08 AM
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Check out Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Chiricahua National Monument as well.

http://www.nps.gov/orpi/index.htm
http://www.nps.gov/chir/index.htm


Can you try to go to Big Bend on the return visit to avoid the week of Christmas? That week between Christmas and New Years is always very busy. I would advise trying to book lodging in the park rather than outside (unless you are camping). The park is just too big to stay outside and drive every day. I would recommend a minimum of 2 nights.

I've always seen javelinas in Big Bend, more typically at dawn/dusk though. IF you're going to see a black bear, the Basin/lodging area or up into the Chisos Mountains is the most likely location. Deer are fairly common in the mountains and around the lodging as well.
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Old Aug 27th, 2015, 10:26 AM
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Bird watching is awesome in southern Arizona--the Huachuca Mountains in Sierra Vista and environs. Google Southwest Wings, their big annual birding festival for an idea of what you might see.

Chiricahua is stunning.
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Old Aug 27th, 2015, 02:54 PM
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Thanks for all of the suggestions so far! I will be looking into all of these.

Yes I quickly realized that our timing was bad for trying to find Big Bend accommodations. We could camp but my in laws are planning to meet us there so camping is out. Chisos Mountain Lodge is what I've been checking. If we try to go to Big Bend on the return, I think it's a bigger detour but maybe not. I'll map it out and see. We're in the very preliminary planning stage so anything can change.
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Old Sep 1st, 2015, 03:33 PM
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Where do you recommend staying for Chiricahua National Monument? I see there's a campground. Is that the best option? What about the Huachuca Mountains? Where should we base ourselves here? Trying to find a balance between not day tripping too far with not constantly packing/unpacking either.

I think we've also decided to flip the itinerary around to hit Big Bend after the holidays so will be going through southern AZ in mid-Jan if that matters.
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Old Sep 1st, 2015, 03:51 PM
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For the Huachuca Mountains, Sierra Vista is your best bet. There are some inns just outside town as well, and on the San Pedro River. There is an historic hotel in Bisbee, the Copper Queen, if you like that kind of thing.

You can do a long day trip to the Chiricahuas from Sierra Vista.
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Old Sep 7th, 2015, 11:18 AM
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I have had a lot of good luck seeing wildlife at Sabino Canyon in Tucson--lots of desert toads (especially little baby ones after the rain), packs of javelina, desert tortoises, gila monsters, snakes, and deer. Plus a huge variety of bugs/butterflies!
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Old Sep 8th, 2015, 07:22 PM
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Thanks for the additional recs! We'll probably spend 5-6 nights in the Tuscon/SE AZ area split between a couple of locations.
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Old Oct 1st, 2015, 10:48 AM
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We're going to flip the itinerary around and take 40 out. Our last stop before arriving in Austin will probably be the Palo Duro Canyon area. I was just wondering if there's any reason to break up this last roughly 7 hour drive. Is there anything interesting (doesn't necessarily have to be wildlife related) to see between Palo Duro Canyon and Austin (maybe midway-ish) that wouldn't be too much of a detour or should we just drive through?
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Old Dec 27th, 2015, 12:19 PM
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Thanks again everyone for your suggestions and a quick update -

We're in Austin now after an almost 3 week drive that took us from Carmel to Los Angeles, Wickenburg, Sedona, Monument Valley, Petrified Forest, Bosque del Apache, Santa Fe and Palo Duro Canyon. We've been very lucky being ahead of the weather everywhere except for the one day we drove from MV to Petrified Forest where predicted flurries turned into a full blown snow storm. We arrived at Petrified Forest to find that the park had closed for the first time in 10 years due to snow but were able to get in the next morning. It was snowing and windy at Canyon de Chelly with low visibility so we weren't able to do much there other than stop at a couple of viewpoints on the south rim road before we decided there was no point in going any further. It was 16 degrees at the crane pond in the morning at Bosque del Apache but we saw spectacular crane and geese fly outs. Luckily there was no wind so we were comfortable with snow boots, down jackets, hats and gloves on. I read that they had to close the loop road due to snow this weekend. We did also stop at Sevilleta and Las Vegas NWRs in New Mexico but unfortunately didn't see much due to parts of Sevilleta being closed for habitat restoration and high winds at Las Vegas. We took some great day trips from Santa Fe to Taos, Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks, Valles Caldera and Bandalier. Saw quite a bit of wildlife in the Valles Caldera/Bandalier area including elk, coyote and deer and we were the only people at the Caldera. We had perfect hiking weather at Palo Duro Canyon.

We'll start to slowly make our way back along the southern route on Friday.
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Old Dec 27th, 2015, 02:01 PM
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I'm glad you've gotten to see so much! Drive safely on the way home.

Lee Ann
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Old Dec 27th, 2015, 03:39 PM
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Sounds like a great trip so far. Keep safe on the way back and thanks for the update.
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Old Dec 28th, 2015, 10:10 AM
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Just returned from a brief birdwatching trip to Cibola National Wildlife Refuge which is near Blythe on the CA/Az border, about 20 minutes off the I-10 freeway.

Great place to visit at dawn or dusk, drive the auto-loop to see the Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese, Canada Geese do their fly-ins. Also well-populated with pintails, mallards, and murmurations of blackbirds. The ranger was able to let us into the Island unit and led us to a Vermillion Flycatcher, flycatching over water with beautiful reflections.

http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Cibola/vis...ctivities.html
Another good stop along the I-10 is Big Morongo Canyon, which is between Joshua Tree and Palm Springs. A number of trails and great feeder at the parking lot.
http://www.bigmorongo.org/a2Visitor.htm
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Old Dec 30th, 2015, 01:53 PM
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I saw the signs for Cibola when passing through Blythe on our way out and had wondered about it. Thanks, mlgb!
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Old Dec 30th, 2015, 03:01 PM
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Sounds so wonderful! My husband and I plan to road trip to AZ/NM this spring (from Austin) and reading about your travels excites me! It's probably a good thing that you opted to take 40 here and 10 back, considering the weather in NM and northern TX last weekend week.

Not sure how you plan to make it from here to Big Bend, but if you aren't set on driving through San Antonio, I would recommend either taking 290 to Fredericksburg or (a bit longer) 71 to Llano. Either route takes you through the Hill Country, past some great wineries (particularly near Fredericksburg), and Llano has a great BBQ spot, Coopers. They're more enjoyable drives than the drive down 35 to San Antonio. From either city you could take TX 16 back down to I-10.

Safe travels!
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Old Dec 31st, 2015, 07:13 AM
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I'm glad we're taking the southern route back too. Our plan is to head west on 290 tomorrow but my husband insists on leaving pretty early so not sure how much we'll "see" Enjoy your trip next spring, lolotravel86!
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