Cranes in SE Arizona
Every year from November into March tens of thousands of Sandhill Cranes come to wetlands in Arizona south of the town of Willcox. Near the tiny towns of Elfrida and McLean in the Sulphur Springs Valley is the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area. There are small ponds where the cranes spend the winter. They usually begin arriving in November from northern states, Alaska and Canada. Each morning at dawn, they fly off to feed in surrounding fields and mountain. They return around noon to the ponds. Some may fly out again to feed late afternoon. These cranes have been coming here for thousands of years. They were a food source to native people before European settlement. Just west and southwest of Willcox is the Willcox Playa, or shallow salt lake. It was much larger in prehistory, and would have had water year round. The Playa also has wintering cranes, but the viewing area is not as easy to reach or view as Whitewater Draw.
Some walking will be required. Wear sturdy shoes and outdoor wear appropriate for the weather. There are clean pit toilet rest rooms on site, covered picnic area, and some benches for seating along the flat dirt walkway (marked in red in photo above). The walk to the best viewing areas is about 1000' one way. The total loop around the viewing area is about 1/2 mile.
9:30 am – Pickup.
10:00 am – Leave Tucson.
Noon – Arrive Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area. Lunch of sandwiches, sodas and water provided.
3:30 pm – Return to Tucson.
5:30 pm – Arrive Tucson.
Tour cost: $70/person