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Monday, June 8, 2015

OCOTE TRAIL

OCOTE TRAIL
White Mountain Grasslands Wildlife Area
Stock pond at White Mountain Grasslands Wildlife Area.

Have you ever wondered where money from the Arizona Lottery ends up? Besides lining the pockets of a few lucky winners, lottery proceeds also support numerous public programs including the Arizona Game and Fish Department Heritage Fund Program for threatened, endangered and sensitive species and their habitats. For the past 20 years the fund has made many positive contributions to the state's wildlife and natural areas conservation efforts while preserving public access and recreational opportunities. One success story is the White Mountain Grasslands Wildlife Area near the town of Eagar. The 2,850-acre site is comprised of two former ranch properties acquired in 1999 and 2000. The 2.6-mile Ocote trail (named for one of the ranches) wraps around pinion-juniper woodlands, riparian habitat, ponds, a wet meadow, open grasslands, an historic log bunkhouse and rustic ranch house with a windmill. Interpretive signs placed long the trails give details about the surrounding plants, animals and the how the property's various ecosystems help wildlife thrive. Although the trail is short and can be hiked in about an hour, a better plan is to allow plenty of time to sit quietly at strategically-placed viewing areas to catch sight of the pronghorn antelope, elk, squirrels, fox and dozens of bird species that inhabit this profoundly diverse slice of White Mountain terrain. While there, kick back at a shady picnic table and contemplate all those bum lottery tickets you've angrily torn up over the years. They weren't losers after all.
LENGTH: 2.6-mile loop
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 7,440' - 7,587'
HOURS: sunrise to sunset daily
GETTING THERE:
From Eagar, travel 5 miles west on State Route 260 to County Road 4128 (signed for Springerville Transfer Station). Turn right and follow the paved road 0.6 mile and take the left fork onto a gravel road. Continue 2.4 miles then turn left at a fork and pass over a cattle guard signed for Arizona Game and Fish Department property. Drive 0.3 mile to the trailhead on the left. Gravel road is suitable for carefully-driven sedans.
INFO: Arizona Game and Fish Department
About the Heritage Fund:
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