Becker Lake Wildlife Area
Becker Lake was created in 1880 by constructing a dam at the head of an old oxbow of the Little Colorado River. The lake was used principally for irrigation purposes. However, a fishery did exist here. In 1973, the Becker family sold 338 deeded acres to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission (Commission), which included the lake of approximately 100 surface-acres. In that year, the Commission directed the Arizona Game and Fish Department (Department) to manage Becker Lake as a quality trout fishery. Since that time, the Department has managed the lake as a "Blue Ribbon" fishery with special regulations, such as motor restrictions, bag and possession limits, restricted methods of take and seasonal closures. In January 2002, the Department purchased an additional 291 acres of adjacent private land utilizing the Department's Heritage Fund to protect and enhance stream and riparian habitat along the Little Colorado River for wildlife species of special concern.
Visiting the Wildlife Area: The Becker Lake Wildlife Area is located in east-central Arizona, on the west side of Springerville and within its city limits. There are three public access points. The Lakeview Trail and Becker Lake access is two miles west of the traffic light in Springerville on U.S. Highway 60; turn south into the main Becker Lake area, designated with signage. The River Walk Trail access is one mile west of the traffic light on Highway 60; turn south into the parking area just before crossing the bridge over the Little Colorado River. The River Walk Trail can also be accessed off Airport Road. Parking is at designated sites only and the wildlife area is open from sunrise to sunset.
The Lakeview Trail is a one-mile loop following the western edge of Becker Lake to an observation platform overlooking the southern, marshy end of the lake. Here, waterfowl and shorebirds, such as white-faced ibis and killdeer, can easily be seen, especially during migration. River Walk Trail meanders along the Little Colorado River for a half-mile where mule deer and beaver are readily found. Several types of raptors also can be seen here, including bald eagle (in winter), American kestrel, osprey, northern harrier and red-tailed hawk. The surrounding grasslands are good places to spot pronghorn antelope, Gunnison’s prairie dog, coyote and a variety of ground squirrels and chipmunks.
Narrative Description and Vegetation Types: Becker Lake Wildlife Area consists of approximately 100 acres of open-water lake habitat. The surrounding edges of the lake are dominated by emergent wetland vegetation that includes bulrush, cattail, willow and smartweed. The upland component of the property consists of approximately five acres of mature cottonwood (Populus sp.) trees. The remainder of the property is a plains grassland community.
Becker Lake is a shallow reservoir. It averages 85 acres in size with an average depth of 10 feet and a maximum depth of 22 feet. This shallow body of water is kept mixed during open water periods by high winds characteristic of this rain shadow region of the White Mountains. Surface water temperatures range from 32 degrees F in winter to extremes of 75 degrees F in late summer. A partial ice cover normally forms in early December and lasts through January. Periodic water quality sampling characterizes Becker as a hardwater, productive lake. The majority of the lake's basin is covered by either submergent or emergent aquatic vegetation.
Management Objective Goals: The Department's management goal at Becker Lake is to provide the public with a quality recreational experience that includes blue ribbon trout fishing and observing wildlife.
Public Use Opportunities and Resource Management Emphasis: Management emphasis at Becker Lake Wildlife Area has been to provide a quality trout fishery and waterfowl area. A seasonal restriction preventing boater access to the south end of the lake has been implemented to safeguard nesting waterfowl, including Canada geese (Branta canadensis). During the winter months, several thousand waterfowl can be viewed on the lake, which also attracts wintering and recently nesting bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). The uplands of the property are passively managed and receive occasional use by pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana) and mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus).
Recently, the Department has improved visitor facilities at Becker Lake, constructing rest rooms, a boat ramp, parking lot expansions and two hiking trails, one on the east side of the property that follows the Little Colorado River and a loop trail on the west side that leads to a wildlife viewing blind and the uplands of the wildlife area.
Becker Lake is stocked with rainbow trout. The lake also contains Little Colorado suckers (Catostomus sp.), fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas), and illegally stocked green sunfish, largemouth bass, and channel catfish. Fishing is with artificial fly and lure, single barbless hooks only, and catch-and-immediate release for trout.
A high diversity of waterfowl can be found on the wildlife area throughout the year. Big game species that occasionally use the area include pronghorn and mule deer. Small mammals potentially occurring on the wildlife area include the White Mountains ground squirrel (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus monticola) and Gunnison’s prairie dog (Cynomys gunnisoni). Raptors occurring on the area include ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis), Swainson's hawk (B. swaisoni), rough-legged hawk (B. lagopus), bald eagle (Haliaeetusleucocephalus), osprey (Pandion haliaetus) and peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus). Several birds recorded rarely in northeastern Arizona have been observed at Becker Lake, including the red phalarope (Phalaropus fulicaria), least flycatcher (Empidonax minimus) and northern shrike (Lanius excubitor). A host of nongame passerines also utilize the area.
Special status species occurring on or near the Becker Lake Wildlife Area have been identified through the Department's Heritage Data Management System and are listed below. In January 1997, a pair of bald eagles built a nest in the cottonwood trees along the eastern edge of the lake. Like nearby Luna Lake, which is another recent addition to the increasing number of wetlands used by nesting bald eagles, Becker Lake eventually may sustain regular nesting attempts by bald eagles.