Spectacular. Simplest way I way can say to describe a short stay at Whitewater Draw. You likely have never heard of Whitewater Draw – I never had. But my bride had and scheduled it into our trip.
Whitewater Draw is a wildlife preserve in southern Arizona, located on and around an ephemeral lake – a like that usually is dry but temporarily has water in it as a result of rains. It serves as a wildlife preserve for transitory wildlife like Sandhill cranes and other species in the winter months. Kind of like us – we tend to head south for a little bit of the winter.
There must be tens of thousands of Sandhill cranes here, plus a wide variety of other birds here. Late in the afternoon, and again shortly before dawn, these birds take off from here in a mass exodus, and then return.
I don’t know where they go… coffee, lunch, socializing, but they leave and then come back. Apparently, they spend the night standing in the shallow waters, and this helps protect them from predators. Seeing this activity is amazing, and what is perhaps the most amazing is the sound these birds make. Listen…
The cranes have their rituals as well. What I suspect may be a little testosterone display, some of the cranes tend to strut their stuff.
We camped right in their parking lot – there is room for maybe 5-6 RV’s, although there is an overflow about a half mile down the road. Camping is free, but there are no services. But it is a really cool place to camp!
The only structures are a pole barn and an outhouse in the parking lot. In the structure there was an owl nest with a fledgling horned owl, as well as a mature owl perched up in the rafters.
And there are many other birds besides cranes here…
The best way to see the birds, and I won’t lie – this is painful, is to get up about an hour before sunrise and walk out to the lake. The sounds are amazing, there is a total sense of calm, the skies and surroundings are beautiful, and then the birds do their thing.
One of the other benefits of getting out early was the ability to catch a horned owl sitting up in a tree looking for a little meal. This was close to pitch dark, but with the moon behind it you can see this beautiful owl.
This was a most extraordinary stop for us, and one that will be remembered fondly for years. Check out Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area!