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Monday, March 28, 2016


Peck's Lake and Tavasci Marsh

This place is for the birds---and the hikers who love them.
Designated an "important birding area" by the Audubon Society, Tavasci Marsh occupies a placid strip of green bounded by Tuzigoot National Monument, Dead Horse Ranch State Park and Verde River Greenway State Natural Area. The 96-acre, spring-fed wetland hosts a colorful cocktail of winged beasts chipping among reeds, roosting, wading or gliding over the waters in feathered flotillas.
Access is via a free parking area near Tuzigoot or at DHSR ($7 fee per vehicle). Both entry
points funnel hikers into a network of trails that wind among enormous cottonwood trees, mesquite forests, cattail choked bogs, sandy flood plains and riverside riparian corridors. Another way to enjoy the site and tag on some educational benefits is to enter through the Tuzigoot monument. There's a $10 fee per person, but you'll get to explore a Sinagua pueblo and learn from visitor center displays and interpretive signs along short, barrier-free walkways. The hiking paths are mostly old dirt roads marked with lathe-style posts. The Tavasci March Trail explores the site's east flank, culminating at a wooden observation deck at Peck's Lake---an oxbow pond that's a remnant of a former channel of the Verde River. The Tuzigoot trails meander west and south along the stream.
It's not necessary to be a birding expert to spot some of the more than 245 species that call the marsh home for all or part of the year. Sightings of Red-winged Blackbirds, Cardinals, Wood Ducks and Osprey are almost a given, but a pair of binoculars (and a substantial dose of patience) will aid in scoping out the more illusive Lesser Nighthawks and Peregrine Falcons.
If you're lucky, you might also spot river otters and beavers where the marsh drains into the Verde River.
Tavasci Marsh Trail: 0.9 mile one way
Tuzigoot Trails: variable, we hiked 3.6 miles along the loops.
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 3,130' – 3,410'
From Interstate 17 in Camp Verde, go west on State Route 260 to Cottonwood and follow the signs to either Dead Horse Ranch State Park or Tuzigoot National Monument.

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