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Sunday, April 27, 2014

AGUA FRIA CONSERVATION AREA


AGUA FRIA CONSERVATION AREA
Lake Pleasant Regional Park
A bend in the Agua Fria River

Closed to motorized vehicles since 2007, this 2,405-acre riparian corridor is recovering from years of abuse.  Until recently, this mesa-flanked swath of the Agua Fria River which flows into the north end of Lake Pleasant was full of trash and off-road vehicles were destroying the waterway and its native wildlife habitats.  Although it’s located just 4 miles from busy Interstate 17, and motorized traffic is allowed in the surrounding Table Mesa Recreation Area, there’s a pronounced wilderness feel here.  Water levels fluctuate with the seasons, but even in the driest months, tiny pools and rivulets feed emerald bands of cottonwoods, willows and mesquite bosques that host swarms of birds including swifts, doves, raptors and even elusive Vermilion Flycatchers.  Along the sandy riverbanks, colorful tufts of wildflowers and two species of native wild tobacco embellish the homes of egrets, herons and killdeer while framing the footprints of myriad forest critters.  From the trailhead, it’s a 2-mile hike to the northern shore of the lake. Follow the closed roads or faint footpaths to explore and appreciate how restoration efforts are giving this hauntingly beautiful site a second chance at life.

Critter footprints with Indian Mesa in the distance

LENGTH: 4 miles round trip
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 1983’ – 1640’
FEE: $6 daily fee per vehicle (bring exact amount for self-serve pay station)

Thistle at the base of Wild Burro Mesa

GETTING THERE:
From Phoenix, go north on I17 to Table Mesa Road exit 236.  Turn left, cross the freeway, make a right and then a left onto Frontage Road. Continue 1.1 mile to a fork near a rock quarry and veer right.  At 1.6 miles, go left at a second fork and left again at a 3rd fork at 3.8 miles. At the 4.2-mile point, cross a cattle guard (corral area on left) and continue another 0.4 mile to the signed parking area. Dirt roads are sedan-friendly.
Tree tobacco plants can grow to 20' in height

INFO & MAPS: Lake Pleasant Regional Park
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