Verde River

We went to two recreation areas along the Verde River in Tonto National Forest last week: Box Bar and Needle Rock. These areas are less than an hour from our house and we had never been there. In fact, I’d never even heard of them until recently and no one else I’ve mentioned them to has either. It was like stepping into Autumn all over again. It was gorgeous there.

Excuse the way-too-many photos. I’ll try not to blabber too much.

Great Blue Heron

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

As we walked down a path to the river’s edge at Needle Rock, I saw something move behind a tree. I thought a person was fishing or something but, no, this is who was there:

We were about 3 feet from him/her! I thought she had stuff from the river on her head from having her head in the water…

But it was a ton of cockleburs! Altogether we saw 9 wild horses there (and they all had cockleburs in their manes and tails).

The horses are used to people but still wary…fortunately.

These horses are part of the herd of Salt River Wild Horses mentioned in a previous post. They have a pretty large territory they cover. The ones we saw on the Salt didn’t appear to have these cockleburs, though. I hope there is some way they work off eventually.

The birding wasn’t good but the scenery and the horses more than made up for that!

Full disclosure: I have 2 cameras that we take on our trips so Tony takes many of the landscape photos. 🙂

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Saguaro Lake

After exploring the Lower Salt River, we headed to Saguaro Lake, set in the Sonoran Desert and rimmed with canyon walls. It is only about 40 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix.

Eared Grebe

And…I got a lifer (below)!

Western Grebe

Red-winged Blackbird, immature male

The lake is divided into two sections connected by narrows between canyon walls. The above is considered the marina side and the other side is my favorite, Butcher Jones Beach.

The Salt River wild horses, mentioned in my last post, often congregate here on hot, summer days. A lot of people also congregate at this lake all summer long. As you can see, we beat the rush by waiting.

Pied-billed Grebe

Redhead

There was a really nice trail there but it was almost dusk so we were not able to go very far on it…maybe next time…it seemed pretty “birdy.”

Great Blue Heron

Northern Cardinal

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

 

 

Theodore Roosevelt Lake

Roosevelt Lake Bridge

I’ve liked every place we’ve gone on our day trips but some are a little more special than others (to me) and this is one of them. I love this area. This bridge was completed in 1992. Prior to this, people could drive over the dam itself. I had not been here since the mid-1980s and it was even more impressive than I remembered…although we were able to drive over the dam when I was first there and it was far more “historic-looking.”

The dam was completed in 1911 after several years of work and mishaps. Former President Theodore Roosevelt dedicated the dam which had the primary purpose of providing water storage for the Salt River Project and flood control through the Salt River Valley. In 1989, renovations and reconstruction began until completion in 1996. As a result of the reconstruction, the dam has a completely altered appearance from when it was originally listed as a National Historic Landmark. The original rubble-masonry dam was completely encased in concrete, and the structural height was extended from 280 feet to 357 feet. Since the dam no longer had the integrity of the design, materials, workmanship, feeling, or association that it had when it was originally listed, the National Historic Landmark designation was withdrawn on March 10, 1999.

This majestic guy was perched on the outcropping in the far right of the above photo, overlooking the dam:

Here is a public domain photo of the original dam:

The following photo shows an aerial view (by the Bureau of Reclamation). Wish I could have gotten this shot!

State Route 188 had to be reconfigured when the new bridge was built.

In the aerial view of the dam, you can see a winding road on the lower right side. That is the old Apache Trail. It starts out paved at the dam but soon changes to an unpaved, winding road with hairpin turns and sheer drop-offs. It is apparently really beautiful but since it lasts for about 40 miles, we opted not to go. Plenty of people do take it, though, or parts of it, and the canyon floors are littered with cars that went over.

It runs along the glittering Salt River to Apache Junction.

There is a part of it that is paved out of Apache Junction to beyond Tortilla Flat, a remaining stagecoach stop. That is going on our list of future “to-dos.” The unpaved, winding part? Not so sure I’ll ever see that. That’s okay, I watched a YouTube video of it.

We also stopped at Tonto National Monument, right along the lake: well-preserved cliff dwellings from the Salado culture 850 years ago. It’s a half-mile hike up to the dwellings with a 350 foot ascension. There’s very little shade so even though the temperatures were in the upper 70s, it was pretty hot. The unique thing about these dwellings is that you can actually go inside them. There is a ranger stationed there asking you to not touch the walls but it’s pretty cool to actually be able to go inside.

This is what the Salado people saw looking out from their home:

A handprint from 850 years ago

Another photo that is not mine of the cliff dwellings (Wikipedia):

We didn’t see many birds but it was awesome, nevertheless.

Great Blue Heron

Here’s a short video of the dam’s history if you’re interested:

 

 

 

Lynx Lake

This is Lynx Lake in Prescott, AZ, part of the Prescott National Forest. We spent a rainy day up there this past week but, fortunately, the rain did let up now and then giving us time to walk around for quite awhile. It’s not that we’re afraid of the rain but I don’t like the cameras to get too soaked.

See the snag on the left side of the above photo?

It was a tree that seemed to attract these cormorants. There were actually more a few minutes later but this is the only photo I got. This guy was top dog in the tree:

Double-crested Cormorant

This is the dam which is at the far end of the first photo.

Flame Skimmer

White-breasted Nuthatch

Great Blue Heron

Pygmy Nuthatch

Red-eared Pond Sliders

It was another bad birding day, certainly no lifers. I hope my bird luck changes soon. As always, it was beautiful up there and much cooler than Phoenix but also very humid.

I guess we had not been to Lynx Lake for 7 years! Here are 2 posts I wrote back then (1 and 2).

We apparently stood in almost the same spot as the top photo in this post back then. Here it is almost exactly 7 years ago:

https://maccandace.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/dsc_0040.jpg?w=1159&h=776

Veteran’s Oasis Park

Western Wood-Pewee

On another recent day when we had a reprieve from Phoenix’s heat, we headed to a destination about 30 miles away…Chandler, AZ…and Veteran’s Oasis Park, a new-to-us park. It’s a Chandler City Park with a community fishing lake but it also has several recharge (water treatment) ponds that are very wild. In fact, they are almost too wild to be able to see much wildlife but I’m sure the animals appreciate it. This is a very pretty park.

Black-tailed Jackrabbits galore

Turkey Vultures galore

Flame Skimmer Dragonfly

Desert Cottontail

San Tan Mountains

Killdeer

Great Blue Heron

Common Gallinule

Blue Dasher Dragonfly

They have blinds scattered around to observe/photograph the wildlife but the reeds and other plants are so overgrown that there isn’t much of a view.

From the recharge ponds, you can look out over farmland…from arid desert to green crops.

Homes with a farm view