Friday, February 2, 2018

Cibola Road to Cibola NWR

During my morning walk, our 4 wheeling partners called with bad news, the had to cancel again today. So, I finished my walk, and we got ready to head out on Plan B. We make a trip every year over the hill to the Cibola Wildlife Reserve. I have been wanting to take the Cibola Road route, and today was perfect. This route leaves Hwy 95 about 15 miles south of Q and heads west through south end of the Dome Rock Mountains over Felipe Pass.

Here we are at the turn off the 95 heading to head west on Cibola.

Right after turning off 95, we stopped to air down the tires. According to the mileage sign, we will be driving 45 miles of gravel road between highway 95 and the town of Cibola. When heading out on long dirt roads, airing down to 10psi is very nice. That allows our big tires to soften the bumps and washboard.

While airing down, I shot a photo of the KOFA wilderness area over to the east.

A few miles west, we cross into the US Army Yuma Proving Grounds. The proving grounds encompass 1300 sq miles and stretch from near hwy 95 all the way over to Cibola near the Colorado River. Some of the uses of this area include weapons testing, vehicle testing, and personnel training.

Drivers on Cibola road are restricted to the main road, unless permission is obtained in advance to venture into Army property. At the east boundary, we pass this sign, stop, and make the call. It was a short call, and I was left with the impression that I did not need to call unless I was planning to "venture". Not today.

A couple miles down the road, we pass an air strip and supporting buildings.

Beyond the airstrip to the southwest are the Trigo Mountains.

Down the road, we passed several training sites and facilities. Out in the distance, we spotted buildings and observation platforms.

We passed a few army vehicles returning from operations.

The high spot on the road is Felipe Pass. It's not much of a mountain pass, more like a a narrow spot between the higher hilltops.

We stopped for a lunch break, and found the first sign of the wild horse and burro herds. I had read we may see burros, however, we did not actually see any. We did see a lot of road apples everywhere we drove over on the Colorado River side of the road as well as around the Cibola NWR.

Another 20+ miles west of Felipe Pass, we finally started seeing the farms and ranches on outskirts of Cibola.

The Cibola NWR is a few miles south of town. This wildlife preserve was created to compensate for loss of habitat when the Colorado River was channelized. This was done a long time ago to free up land and water for agriculture. The land in the river bottom, in and around the old river channel and the artificial channel make up the reserve.

The reserve manages water and land to maintain a number of ponds and marshes. Today, we identified several duck species, saw about 2000 sand hill cranes, and an equal number of Canadian geese.

The nature trail ends at a nice viewing platform after passing under a number of very old cottonwoods. That's me standing under one of the big ones.

The above photos were taken on the short auto tour located near the offices.

Down the road about 5 miles to the south is the Island Unit of the reserve. The island unit is bordered by the channelized river on the east and the original river channel on the west. We drive a bridge over the river to reach the "island".

There were a number of marshy areas in the island unit, but not all that many birds in this area today.

The reserve maintains a number of fields, the crops chosen to support the wildlife. Here is an alfalfa field with the Plomosa Mountains in the background.

Dining in one of the alfalfa fields were a few deer. One stopped to pose for us.

Running out of time, we stopped and aired the tires back up to highway pressure. The trip home will be on paved roads. North from the Cibola NWR to Interstate 10, then over the hill to Quartzsite.

Along the road north, we passed this old bulldozer.

Back in camp, we relaxed and enjoyed a cold beverage before starting dinner. The Goodyear Blimp passed by over Q, heading east. Maybe to Minnesota for the Super Bowl?

I set up the tripod to capture the evening sunset. Sunsets here rarely disappoint.

Tomorrow, we plan to join a BLM guided, off road tour to a mine to the southeast of town.

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