On Kofa National Wildlife Refuge
Yuma, AZ 85364
None. This a remote area with no lights. Camping is permitted.
Perhaps the only native palm trees in Arizona are tucked away in narrow, rugged canyons on the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. This short hike takes you near a stand of these unique plants, called California fan palms, Washingtonia filifera.
Since palms do not produce annual growth rings like shade trees, it is difficult to say how old the trees might be. They are able to survive in the narrow side canyons because direct sunlight is limited but some moisture is available.
The most prominent trail leads to a small sign on a slightly elevated area near the middle of the canyon. Look upward in the narrow, north-trending side canyon to see the palms (well-lighted for photos for a short time at midday, shaded the rest of the day).
The main grove has about 42 trees, about half of which are adults, with a trunk of 20 feet or more. In 1954, a fire roared through the grove and seriously damaged the trees. Fortunately, most palms survived and the grove has a good chance of maintaining itself as young trees become established.
You may see a variety of wildlife as you walk along the trail. Watch the skyline for bighorn sheep . These agile mammals may be seen, usually early in the morning, moving along ridge tops or staring down at you.
Birds are numerous for most of the year in Palm Canyon. Watch for gnatcatchers, brown towhees, and thrashers flitting about in the underbrush. Swallows can be heard calling back and forth as they dart about over your head or you notice the musical call of the canyon wren. High above turkey vultures or a golden eagle occasionally soar into view.
Directions: Take Highway 95 north to Palm Canyon Road (mile marker 85, about 63 miles north of Yuma). Go east about nine miles toward a large mountain, climbing to a parking area that offers sweeping views over a huge area of desert. The road is passable in a passenger car, but will be a rough ride. The half-mile foot trail into the narrow canyon starts at the upper end of the parking area. The trail is easy to follow but is rough most of the way, with large rocks and some steep sections. Allow an hour for your round-trip hike; leave pets secured outside your vehicle those unfamiliar with cactus may run into trouble. Overnight camping is allowed at the parking area.
[Excerpted from Kofa National Wildlife Refuge Palm Canyon fact sheet, click here]