Arizona Field Ornithologist


8-10 November—Alamo Lake & Upriver Expedition (Mohave & La Paz Counties)

Leader: Anne Pellegrini




Alamo Lake is a reservoir in western Arizona just below where the confluence of the Big Sandy and Santa Maria Rivers form the Bill Williams River. The lake is surrounded by Sonoran Desert uplands, with the Rawhide and Artillery Mountains providing a dramatic backdrop to the north and west. A large expanse of native riparian forest exists at the north end of the lake. Further upstream on the Santa Maria and Big Sandy Rivers, the vegetation transitions to a wide swath of mixed-native riparian vegetation interspersed with mesquite bosque. The area is seldom-visited by birders and there is a corresponding lack of eBird data. The goal of this expedition will be to see what later fall migrants are utilizing the riparian forest and surrounding desert-scrub habitat, as well as the open water and snags on the reservoir. This expedition has the bonus of straddling the line between two counties, so this will likely appeal to county birders in Arizona! At this point in fall, we could encounter some rarer waterfowl, gulls, and passerines.


We will plan to meet early afternoon on Friday November 8 and depart the area mid-day on Sunday November 10. Base camp will be at Alamo Lake State Park both Friday and Saturday nights. The itinerary will be finalized once the team roster is finalized, but target areas will include:

  • The lake itself.  There are several vantage points along the entire southern edge, accessed either via driving or short walks from a parked car.  If anyone is interested in kayaking, we will consider forming a kayak team to expand access to the lake.
  • Native forest at the northern end of the lake.  We’ll be able to easily drive within a half-mile of this area, and then walk on foot towards the habitat.  Most of the access to this area is along a well-maintained, graded dirt road and is fine with any vehicle, but there is one sandy wash area near the end of the road.  Participants might wish to have slightly higher clearance and either 4WD or AWD (think Subaru) for this short section.
  • Mesquite bosque and other riparian habitat on the Santa Maria River near Date Creek. This is the most remote portion of the area and will require high clearance, 4WD vehicles for access. We will organize carpooling to make sure everyone can participate. Because of the longer drive from base camp and size of potential habitat to explore, we will plan to visit this area on Saturday.
  • Sonoran Desert upland around the lake and between base camp and the lake/river access points.

****Registered participants will be instructed on meeting time, place, and directions for the afternoon of Friday, November 8.

Things to Know/Bring:

  • Most of the area we will visit is either on U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land or Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) land and accessible without a fee. However, the state park where participants may opt to camp has a $7 per day, per vehicle (1-4 adults) fee, which is paid at the small park store and Visitor Center. Those with an Arizona State Parks annual pass can use that to cover the daily entry fee.
  • Access throughout the area consists of a mix of paved roads; well-maintained, graded dirt road; and rougher, unmaintained dirt roads. High-clearance, AWD or 4WD vehicles are recommended for the rougher roads. We will organize carpools for access to areas requiring high-clearance vehicles. It is possible to access a fair bit of the area without a high-clearance vehicle, and this type of vehicle is not required for participation.
  • The nearest gas station is 30 minutes away in Salome, with additional gas stations in Hope (1 hr) and Wickenburg (1.5 hr). Participants should be fine on gas for the weekend if they fuel up “close to” (or at) Salome.
  • Foot access to riparian habitat at the north end of the lake and the Santa Maria River will involve hiking in rough and/or sandy conditions. While total distance on foot is unknown, participants accessing these areas should be prepared for a few to several miles. Plan on bringing sturdy hiking boots.


  • There is a fair bit of area that can be covered directly from a vehicle, or via short walks from parked vehicles if that is of greater interest to any participants than hiking. For those not able to hike long distances, we could have you be on a team covering the lake during the day and scanning for incoming migrants.
  • We will be camping at Alamo Lake State Park, so please bring your own camping gear: a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad and/or cot, camping chair, lantern, and flashlight or headlamp (bring extra batteries for your flashlights).  The park does have a small camp store for any critical essentials (ice!), and there is both water and free showers in the campground.  Fair warning, there are burros in the campground.
    • Camping is $15 per vehicle, per night, per campsite. The park also has small cabins for rent. You can view more information and even reserve campsites or cabins at the park’s website here.

    • Alternatively, participants may opt to camp primitively outside the park on adjacent BLM land. Fair warning on this option that there will likely be many RVs parked on BLM land for the winter.
  • Please bring your own toiletries if you plan to be on the hiking or kayaking teams. “Leave No Trace” ethics are expected of participants, so extra toilet paper and a small camp shovel are recommended. Bathrooms are available at the campground at Alamo Lake State Park.
  • Please bring binoculars and cameras, with extra batteries!  If anyone has a scope, it will come in extra handy for viewing the lake.
  • You will be responsible for your own food and water on the trip. A gallon of water per person, per day is recommended. Again, the campground does have water, so bring whatever containers you normally use for carrying water. A daypack to carry water and snacks while we are out surveying is recommended.
  • Weather at this time of year will be warm in the daytime (70’s to 80’s), but cool at night (40’s to 50’s). Therefore, it is recommended that you bring layers for both sun protection and cooler temperatures at night. 
  • A wide-brimmed hat and sunblock are also recommended.
  • If you are interested in kayaking, please indicate this at time of registration. Bring your own kayaking gear (kayak, personal floatation device, paddle).

Carpooling, Meeting Time/Location:

Upon registering via email with the expedition leader, details on meeting time and place will be arranged. Carpooling possibilities can be arranged among registered participants.