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Yuma nature fest not just for the birds

April 13-16 event provides easy shortcuts to wide variety of outdoor adventures

YUMA, ARIZONA – If what you think of when you think of birding events is little old ladies in tennis shoes peering through binoculars to add another feathered creature to their "life lists," think again.

Sure, the 2011 Yuma Birding & Nature Festival (April 13-16) offers a chance to see some of the nearly 400 species of birds that frequent the Colorado River flyway.

But with nearly 40 different field trips on the agenda, birds are just the beginning of the exciting wildlife and wilderness adventures this event offers, including

  • Searching for bighorn sheep on the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge
  • Helping to net native bats for "hands-on" observation and study
  • Getting a close-up look at ancient petroglyphs at a remote archaeological site
  • Hikes in a desert wash, in rugged mountains or with a starlight cookout
  • An evening owl adventure whose leader specializes in a 'wounded rabbit squeal'

New this year is a partnership with Friends of Arizona Highways that's bringing Highways Photography Editor Jeff Kida and frequent contributor Bruce Taubert to Yuma for several photography seminars. Taubert, a wildlife biologist, will offer a session titled "Introduction to Wildlife Photography" and will also talk about "A Lifetime of Chasing Wildlife" as the Festival's keynote speaker.

Kida will offer both a short session on how to improve your travel photos and an all-day portrait photography session that will show aspiring shooters how to "tell a story" through photos, using character actors "on location" at Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park.

Having the Old West prison available for photography lessons is just one element of what makes the Yuma event unique, says Susan Sternitzke, executive director of Yuma Visitors Bureau, the Festival's primary organizer.

"Our location is what makes this festival special in so many ways," Sternitzke explained. "Being where the Colorado River flows into the Sonoran Desert means there's a unique convergence of habitats, from lush marshes to rugged mountains, to windswept sand dunes – and they all attract different kinds of birds and animals."

She noted that field trips also cross into California for an up-close look at the ecology of the Imperial Sand Dunes National Recreation Area and the birds and geology of the Salton Sea.

And if that doesn't float your boat, relax – there are also several field trips that will get you out on the waters of the Colorado River in a jet boat, a canoe or a kayak ... you can even choose whether to canoe at sunrise, sunset or in the warm afternoon sunshine.

"We really have a little something for everyone – all ages, interests and fitness levels," Sternitzke said. "And what most people don't realize is that Yuma has restored hundreds of acres of wetlands in the heart of the city over the last several years – so we have an incredible wildlife habitat on our doorstep, literally five minutes from our event headquarters at Pivot Point Conference Center on the riverfront."

"By having experts on the ground taking care of the details, folks on our trips can relax and enjoy what they're seeing, without worrying about logistics or details," Sternitzke said. "You don't have to rent a canoe or buy an off-road vehicle, so it's an easy, affordable short-cut to adventure."

The Festival even offers a "volun-tourism" opportunity this year, a chance to get your hands dirty helping with a habitat restoration project in the Yuma East Wetlands.

"We've got people coming from as far away as England, New York City and Washington, D.C.," Sternitzke added. "But we also always say that even if you've lived your whole life here, we've got something on the schedule you've always wanted to do but never done – so this is a great chance to get it off your 'bucket list' and on your calendar."

The basic registration fee of $25 covers more than a score of free seminars. The Friends of Arizona Highways photography sessions and field trips cost extra – but those charges range from as little as $5 to $80 for the most expensive field trip, a jetboat excursion into a wilderness stretch of the Colorado River. The portrait photography seminar is $165 but includes both breakfast and a detailed personal critique by Kida and Taubert of the images that students will create during their photo sessions at the prison.

The Festival website ( ) includes detailed descriptions of seminars and field trips. To make sure that space is available for the field trips of your choice, register by phone with Jean Baber at 928-376-0100 (10 a.m. -2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday), or email anytime.

The 2011 Yuma Birding & Nature Festival is being organized by the Yuma Visitors Bureau with major sponsorship from the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, Arizona Game & Fish Department, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program.

One of its aims is to raise awareness of the unique diversity of ecosystems that surround Yuma – desert, mountain and river – because of its location on the Colorado River.

"The river shaped our history, the river created our booming agricultural industry, and we want to restore the river's importance in our future," Sternitzke said. "Though we sit in the desert, it's all about the water – and this Festival really celebrates the special opportunities that surround us here on the river's edge."

Yuma Visitors Bureau markets the Yuma area within the travel and tourism industry and to the general public. The nonprofit is funded in part by City of Yuma hospitality tax revenues. Direct travel spending in Yuma County totaled more than $577 million in 2009 and supported nearly 6,000 jobs. Travel spending in the county also generated more than $36 million in state and local taxes.


Media contact: Ann Walker, 928-376-0100 (office), 928-210-9044 (cell),
Visitor Information Center: 1-800-293-0071

The Yuma Visitors Bureau is always happy to assist members of print, digital and broadcast media, either on assignment or pitching an idea with a Yuma angle.

Visit Yuma team can suggest itineraries and facilitate visits, or provide you with the inspired details to help nail down an assignment.  We pride ourselves on always going "above and beyond."

You can download background and "anytime" materials below; dated press releases appear "most recent first" at left. Call or email us for photos and B-roll video.

YVB periodically hosts group and individual press trips, and is glad to partner with other Arizona or California DMOs to coordinate a visit to several regions.

For more information, contact Linda Morgan at 928-376-0100 (office), email Thanks for your interest in the Yuma area.

'Anytime' releases:

Around & about - a quick Yuma overview

Brilliant! Yuma wears 'sunniest' label with pride

Last link in river restoration under way


Background info:

Fast Facts About YVB

 Fast Facts About Yuma 

Yuma history - narrative

Yuma historic timeline


Research and statistics

Yuma Winter Visitors Study 2017-2018

Yuma Winter Visitors Study 2017-2018 Executive Summary

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