The Nature Conservancy owns the Hassayampa River Preserve. The mission of the preserve is to protect plants and animals faced with extinction by providing important shade, water and food the desert wildlife in the area.
The word “Hassayampa” is an Apache word meaning “river that runs upside down”. The reason the Native Americans gave it this name is because the river run mostly underground, except for the 4-mile stretch through Wickenburg. The water from the river provides lush vegetation.
The Hassayampa River Preserve stretches alongside the river. There are several areas within the preserve that are ideal habitats for rare animals and birds. The riparian area by the river’s bank includes a Fremont Cottonwood-Goodding Willow forest, which is one of the least common forest types in North America. The migration of over 220 species of birds is drawn to this spot, along with mule deer, javalina and bobcats.
Palm Lake is another area that wildlife congregates. This special 4-acre pond and marsh attracts birds such as blue heron, Harris Hawk and many migrating waterfowl. There are many endangered fish species that make Palm Lake their home too.
The Hassayampa River Preserve has nature trails and guided walks. These experiences really get you in touch with nature. Paths are found all over the preserve. The paths will take you through a variety of habitats ranging from desert areas to lush zones along the river. Hikers can get guides in the Visitor Center for the two nature trails in the preserve. The Hassayampa River Nature Trail is one and half-mile loop. The Palm Lake Nature Trail is a short half-mile walk.
The preserve also has a bookstore available for those who want to learn more about the preserve or the wildlife. The Visitor Center was once built as a stagecoach way station in the late 1860’s. Later, it became part of the Fredrick Brill Ranch and was one of Arizona’s first dude ranches. Then in 1986, the Nature Conservancy purchased the property. Today, the adobe building is listed on Arizona’s Register of Historic Places and is used as the Visitor Center for the preserve.
The Hassayampa River Preserve is open Wednesday through Sunday from 8:00 to 5:00 during September 16 through May 14. The preserve is open Wednesday through Sunday from 6:00 to 12:00 during the summer months. It is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The cost of admission is a donation of $5.00 per person.
The preserve is located along Highway 60, just south of Wickenburg on the west side of the road. It is three miles southeast of Wickenburg. If you are coming from Phoenix or Tucson take Interstate 17 north out of town. Once you have come to State Highway 74, just outside of Phoenix take it west. When State Highway 74 runs into State Highway 60, take it north to the Preserve. Look for the “Hassayampa River Preserve” sign on the west side of the highway. If you are coming from Flagstaff and would like to take a scenic route to Wickenburg, you will take Highway 89A south out of town. You will pass through Sedona, Cottonwood and into Prescott. Once in Prescott take Highway 89 southwest out of town passing through Peeples Valley. When Highway 89 meets State Highway 93 take it south to Wickenburg. Once you are in town continue through it, until you come to State Highway 60 south toward Phoenix. You will take the State Highway 60 south about three miles to the preserve.
If you would like more information on the preserve, you may call 520-684-2772. You will want to call ahead for information on tours starting at the Visitor Center.
Hassayampa River Preserve is an oasis in the Sonoran Desert.