The Hassayampa River runs south from Prescott, Arizona toward Wickenburg, eventually emptying into the Gila River. That is, when there is water flowing, which is a very rare sight. For most of its 100-mile course through the desert, the Hassayampa River flows only underground. Unless of course there is a great deal of rainfall, then the Hassayampa can be a raging river for a moment in time. For the most part, the Hassayampa is a dry riverbed.
There are areas of the river where the water is just below or above the surface, which sustains a lush habitat in sections of the river. One such area is the Hassayampa River Preserve, a Nature Conservancy just east of Wickenburg. This lush stream-side habitat is home to some of the desert’s most spectacular wildlife and foliage. In this riparian area cottonwood-willow forests flourish, which helps to provide a rich habitat for wildlife. It also makes for a nice reprieve from the desert heat for humans.
Along trails of the Preserve you can see tracks of animals drawn to the river’s edge, such as mule deer, javelina, raccoon, bobcat, ring-tailed cat and even mountain lions. Spring-fed Palm Lake is a unique 4 acre pond and marsh habitat. The marshy pond attracts an impressive array of water birds such as the great blue heron, white-faced ibis, and pied-billed grebe. The large willows around the lake provide important nesting habitats for the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher.
The Hassayampa River has many scenic areas if you are willing to go off-road to find them. In the Wickenburg area, the Preserve is an excellent roadside attraction right off of US Hwy 60.
The aerial photos in this post with water flowing down the river are indeed a rare sight. I was lucky to capture these images shortly after a large amount of rainfall in early 2017. If you’ve ever visited the Hassayampa River or the Preserve just east of Wickenburg, please leave a comment below and share your experience.