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Saturday, January 3, 2015


Near Buckeye
Robbins Butte 

Occasionally, some of the best hiking can be discovered where there are no trails. This is true of the Robbins Butte Wildlife Area located south of Buckeye.  The Arizona Game and Fish Commission manage this 1,681-acre swath of riparian-desert upland ecosystem for the preservation of native animal habitats and enhancement of wildlife-oriented recreation.  Except for a short accessible trail built by the Boy Scouts in 2008, there’s not a traditional hiking trail to be found in the astonishingly varied terrain.  Instead, hikers can explore along dirt roads and hunter paths that lead to cattail-lined wetlands along the Gila River, mesquite forests and sandy washes running through expansive rangelands of creosote and cholla. The property is designated an Audubon Important Birding Area and is one site in their annual Christmas bird count. At any given time, thousands of white-wing and mourning doves can be seen feeding on the crops that are planted here to attract and sustain them. Besides the familiar trill of doves taking flight, there are chirping quail, squawking water birds and, in winter, a bevy of raptors like bald eagles and red-tailed hawks inhabit the affluent land. Determined bird watchers may also spot rare species like the Western yellow-billed cuckoo and Lark Buntings.  I was fortunate enough to view a pair of Cooper’s hawks sparing above a rogue cottonwood tree.  This free-form hiking excursion can be experienced from any of the 6 designated parking areas along the 2-mile main access road. Just step out and wander at will. I hiked along the roads and footpaths for 7 miles and barely scratched the surface of sights to be seen in this extraordinary public land preserve.
LENGTH: variable on roads and hunter paths
RATING: easy, exploratory
ELEVATION: 578’ – 820’
FACILITIES: none. No fees.
From downtown Phoenix (I17 and 7th Ave.), go 30 miles west on Interstate 10 to State Route 85 exit 112. Head 8 miles south on AZ85 to the signed turn off on the right for Robbins Butte and follow the dirt road 0.3 mile to the parking area on the right just before the road fork.  The main road (right at fork) leads to 5 additional parking areas and is sedan-friendly dirt, while the road to the Butte (left at fork) is washboard rough, sandy and better suited for high-clearance vehicles.

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