Robbins Butte Wildlife Area
This wildlife area managed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department is 680 hectares (1681 acres) and includes a diversity of habitats. It is bounded on the north and south of the remnants of the Gila River where there is some open ponding water with marshy cattails along side. The property also lies to the east and west of Highway 85 as it crosses the Gila River southwest of the City of Buckeye. Extensive areas adjacent to the river are broad, almost impenetrable thickets of deciduous tamarisk (or salt cedar) variously interspersed with native willows, cottonwoods, and mesquites. Back from the tamarisk thickets are areas of occasional inundation – every decade or so the Gila River overflows. Here there are large mesquites, blue palo verdes, athel trees (an evergreen, non-native tamarisk relative) and gray thorn bushes. The groundwater is not far below the surface and occasional patches of salt-encrusted soil can be found.
The Gila River corridor features diverse habitats that draw large populations of resident and migratory wildlife to this area. From the top of Robbins Butte, one can see a broad overview of the river corridor and adjacent desert regions. Ruins and petroglyphs document the importance of this area to human habitation and farming for the last 500 years. Today, Robbins Butte is farmed to provide food crops for doves and other migratory birds, provide nesting habitat for migratory and upland bird species as well as a variety of big and small game species like javelina, mule deer and rabbits.
Camping: Overnight public camping is not permitted.
Fishing: Fishing is permitted in the Gila River only.
Hunting: Open to all hunting in season as permitted under R12-4-304 and R12-4-318, except the wildlife area is closed to the discharge of centerfire rifled firearms. Robbins Butte offers a variety of hunting opportunities including mule deer, javelina, dove, quail and rabbit. The largest youth opportunity is held on opening weekend in September and provides a mentored experience for youth hunters. Game management area 41.
Hiking: Robbins Butte Wildlife Area Trail is a 25.5 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Buckeye, Arizona that offers scenic views and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.
- No open fires.
- No firewood cutting or gathering.
- Motorized vehicle travel permitted on designated roads, trails, or areas only from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset daily.
- Parking in designated areas only.
- If conducted during an event approved under R12-4-804, target or clay bird shooting is permitted in designated areas only.
- Open to all hunting in season as permitted under R12-4-304 and R12-4-318 except: i. Posted portions around Department housing closed to the discharge of all firearms; and ii. Wildlife area is closed to the discharge of centerfire rifled firearms.
Wildlife Observed in the Area
Amphibians and Reptiles: Amphibians and reptiles are common; a minimum of 19 reptile species reside here. Gila monsters and a wide variety of reptiles, including Sonoran Desert toad, couch’s spadefoot, desert spiny lizard, desert horned lizard, sidewinder, speckled and diamond-backed rattlesnakes, long-nosed snakes, and common kingsnakes are frequently encountered in season.
Birds *Important Bird Area*: Mourning and white-winged doves, Gambel’s quail, resident songbirds include black and Say’s phoebes, ash-throated flycatcher, loggerhead shrike, phainopepla, verdin, cactus, rock and canyon wrens, black-tailed gnatcatcher, crissal thrasher, Abert’s towhee, and black-throated sparrow.
Bird diversity and abundance increase dramatically during the winter, with the local Gila River Christmas Bird Count regularly exceeding 140 species, with over 45,000 individuals often compiled. The most abundant species during this time are sparrows (15-20 species) and blackbirds. Birds of prey are also common during the fall and winter, particularly near agricultural fields. These include northern harrier, prairie falcon, and red-tailed, ferruginous, Cooper’s, and sharp-shinned hawks. White-tailed kites are occasionally observed, and osprey and bald eagles are regularly seen foraging over the nearby Gila River and canals.
Mammals: Ringtail, also known as the Ringtail cat or Miner’s cat, coyotes, javelina, jack and cottontail rabbits, field mice, mule deer and a variety of bats.
Fish: The fishing opportunity is limited to the river itself. On the property, the Department maintains populations of Desert pupfish and Gila Topminnow.
Plants and Vegetation: Vegetative cover is a diverse mixture including dense salt cedar thickets, willows and cattail in the river bottom; mature mesquite on the river terrace; saltbush and shrub-sized mesquite upland areas; upland desert areas dominated by creosote bush and white bursage; retired agricultural lands that are being restored to a native vegetative community; and agricultural land used to produce food and cover crops for wildlife. In addition to the Gila River, ponds and drinkers provide a well distributed system of water for wildlife. The combination of desert upland, agricultural, and relict riparian habitats attract a variety of wildlife species.
Directions: Take I-10 to exit 112, go south on SR 85 for 6 miles. Turn west at milepost 147 to enter to the wildlife area. Follow the dirt road, stay to the right along the fields. The opportunity to turn left at the fork will take you around the southside of the wildlife area and continue all the way to Powers Butte Wildlife Area.