Wenima Wildlife Area
On January 28, 1993, the first parcel of the Wenima Wildlife Area, consisting of 205 acres, was purchased by the Arizona Game and Fish Department through its Heritage Fund. This constituted the first "fee title" Heritage acquisition in the state. Waterfowl Conservation Funds were also utilized in the acquisition. On February 22, 1995, purchase of the adjacent Slade property added 152 acres to the Wenima Wildlife Area bringing the total size to 357 acres. The land and resource values associated with this acquisition provide opportunities to meet objectives of Arizona's Heritage Fund for Threatened, Endangered and Sensitive species and habitats, as well as provide benefits for other wildlife species and recreational opportunities for the public.
Visiting the Wildlife Area
The Wenima Wildlife Area is located in east-central Arizona, approximately three miles northwest of the towns of Springerville and Eagar. To get there, take U.S. Highway 60 a couple miles west going out of Springerville. At the junction of U.S. Highways 60 and 180/191, go a quarter-mile north on Highway 180/191 and look to turn right onto a graded dirt road going northeast. After 1.5 miles, the graded road drops a short distance into the Little Colorado River canyon corridor. Park at the designated parking area next to the restroom and information kiosks. The wildlife area is open from sunrise to sunset.
Since its acquisition, the Department has steadily enhanced the habitat values of the property and attractions for visitors. Two hiking trails provide easy access to both streamside and upland areas where you can view beaver, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, ringtail cat, ground squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits and lizards. Powerhouse Trail is .7 mile in length, proceeding south from the east side of the bridge over the Little Colorado River, while Beavertail Trail runs 1.5 miles north, starting from the west side of the bridge. Wenima Wildlife Area is an excellent site to view a wide variety of birds. Birding can be done throughout the year, but is best in spring, summer and fall. Numerous waterfowl, birds and raptors can be seen here, including golden eagle, American kestrel, belted kingfisher, blue grosbeak, indigo bunting, black-crowned night-heron, green-backed heron, yellow-breasted chat, black phoebe, gray catbird, and a variety of migrating warblers and songbirds. Check the bluff edges for raptors. Both mountain and western bluebird are found in the junipers in winter.
Hunting: Archery hunting in season is allowed on the property.
Narrative Description and Vegetation Types
This 355-acre wildlife area includes approximately:
- 2.5 miles (50 acres) of sensitive stream and riparian habitat along the Little Colorado River, which currently provides habitat for the Federally-threatened Little Colorado spinedace, and known and potential habitat for many other dependent wildlife species
- 121 acres of adjacent riparian and wetland floodplain that was managed as irrigated pasture and cropland, but which holds tremendous potential for restoration of riparian wetland values
- 184 acres of upland pinyon-juniper, grassland and canyon rock cliff habitats that provides habitat for big game, small game, nongame and potential threatened and endangered species
- A quarter-acre artificial pond filled by pumping groundwater
- A146 acre-foot storage water right from Becker Lake
- Cultural resource sites
Management Objective Goals
- Meet the objectives of the Heritage Fund (Title 17, Chapter 2, Article 6) program for the Identification, Inventory, Acquisition, Protection and Management of sensitive species and their habitats
- Meet the objectives of the Waterfowl Conservation Fund (Title 17, Chapter 2, Article 4) for developing migratory waterfowl habitat
- Meet the objectives established in the Pittman-Robinson Wildlife Restoration Act as administered through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Federal Aid Program
- Manage and maintain the existing resource values of the physical structures, such as buildings and cultural sites, on the property.
- Manage and maintain the water right values associated with the property
- Provide public access to the property and its biological and physical resources, and optimize opportunities for public recreation
- Prevent, detect and assess habitat damage caused by off-highway vehicles and enforce applicable wildlife laws and regulations
Public Use Opportunities and Resource Management Emphasis
The management emphasis for the Wenima Wildlife Area is the protection of biodiversity by letting natural processes operate, while permitting compatible human uses in suitable areas.
Resource management follows an ecosystem approach. Management strategies are designed to provide for all associated organisms within plant and animal communities on the Wenima Wildlife Area. Approaches to management emphasize providing sustainable habitats as a means of providing for and managing special status species and other wildlife populations.
Stream Habitat Species
The Wenima Wildlife Area contains approximately 2.5 miles (50 acres) of stream riparian habitat along the Little Colorado River. Fish populations in this area of the Little Colorado consist of a mix of native and introduced species. Little Colorado spinedace, Lepidomeda vittata, speckled dace, Rhinichthys osculus, bluehead mountain sucker, Pantosteus discobolus and Little Colorado sucker, Catostomus spp. comprise a healthy native fish community. Survey records indicate that the fathead minnow, Pimephales promelas occurs in good numbers, with the occasional presence of rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, brown trout, Salmo trutta and carp, Cyprinus carpio. This habitat may also provide food and cover for small mammals, including the Arizona montane vole, Microtus montanus arizonensis.
Irrigated Pasture Species
The creation of the extensive irrigated pasture land within the riparian floodplain has provided nesting cover for some waterfowl and foraging areas for Canada geese, Branta canadensis and occasionally snow geese, Chen caerulescens. At present, the property has relatively limited waterfowl use compared to its potential. There are reports of nesting mallards, Anas platyrhynchos and cinnamon teal, A. cyanoptera and seasonal use by other species. This habitat also provides key food and cover resources for big game, such as mule deer, and small game, such as mourning dove and cottontail rabbit, that currently inhabit the area.
Upland Habitat Species
The upland habitat is used by wildlife moving to and from the riparian area. It also provides food and cover for various wildlife, including probable White Mountains ground squirrel, and fringe nesting areas for waterfowl. The cliff areas of this zone provide roosting or perch sites for various birds, such as raptors. This zone provides potential habitat for special status species like peregrine falcon and ferruginous hawk and other raptors like prairie falcon and golden eagle.
Special Status Species occurring on or near the Wenima Wildlife Area have been identified through the Department's Heritage Data Management System. This includes the threatened bald eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus and Little Colorado spinedace, federally-listed candidate Western yellow-billed cuckoo, Coccyzus americanus occidentalis, and federally-proposed threatened mountain plover, Charadrius montanus.