Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area
Located in southeastern Arizona. Typically thought of as a major roost site for Sandhill Crane, Whitewater Draw offers excellent waterfowling as well. During wet years numerous waterfowl can be found in and around this Wildlife Area. There is a seasonal closure on hunting during the Crane hunt, which typically falls in November-early December. The Department currently manages Whitewater Draw for waterfowl, cranes, and other wetland associated birds.
Many people visit Whitewater Draw each winter to experience the memorable sights and sounds of more than 20,000 sandhill cranes. These birds spend the night standing in Whitewater Draw’s shallow waters to evade predators, and then fly out each morning to feed and socialize in the surrounding area. They return to Whitewater Draw in the afternoon and evening.
You can make a donation that will go specifically to Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area and help support the Sandhill Cranes
How long will the cranes be there?
The cranes typically arrive at the beginning of October and stay until the middle of March depending on the weather and how the cranes are feeling.
Best time to view the cranes?
The best times to view the cranes are when they leave for morning foraging which is just before sunrise and approximately one hour after. Additionally, you can view the cranes as they return from the morning foraging approximately 10 am – 12 pm.
Are dogs allowed?
Yes, but they must be leashed at all times and owners are expected to pick up after them.
Are drones allowed?
No drones for photography or recreational activities are allowed on the Whitewater Draw property.
Can I RSVP a campsite?
Unfortunately at this time no RSVPs are accepted.
Closest area to book a hotel and/or eat at?
The nearest cities to eat and spend the night are Bisbee, Tombstone, and Douglas.
Are fires allowed?
No fires are allowed.
Is hunting allowed?
Yes, designated areas on the wildlife area are accessible for hunting. Please see the link on this page for a map that shows areas open for hunting.
The number of wintering sandhill cranes in the area has increased dramatically since the 1950s, probably in response to the abundant food (primarily corn) available in harvested grain fields. This area is now the best sandhill crane-viewing site in Arizona.
In addition to sandhill cranes, Whitewater Draw’s waters attract many kinds of ducks, geese, herons, egrets, shorebirds, gulls and terns. Hunting in the grasslands or soaring overhead are prairie and peregrine falcons and wintering hawks. Spring and fall are good times to spot migratory birds. Surrounding grasslands nurture a wealth of quail, doves, sparrows and songbirds throughout the year.
Some typical birds to look for
- blue-winged, green-winged and
- Northern shoveler
- Northern pintail
- scaled and Gambel’s quail
- Western, eared, pied-billed and
- great blue heron and black-
crowned night heron
- white-faced ibis
- red-tailed, Swainson’s, Cooper’s
and Harris’ hawks
- Northern harrier
- many kinds of shorebirds
- mourning and white-winged
- greater roadrunner
- barn, long-eared, burrowing
and great horned owls
- Vermilion flycatcher
- loggerhead shrike
- Bendire’s, curve-billed and
- many kinds of sparrows
- red-winged and yellow-
The Plains leopard frog lives in this area, along with many species of toads. In the grasslands and along (or on!) the trails, Mohave and Western diamond-backed rattlesnakes, coachwhip, gophersnake, kingsnake, Western hog-nosed snake and other snake species may be seen. Whitewater Draw is also home to lizards such as the Texas horned lizard.
On Four Feet
Keep your eyes open for mammals using these grasslands as a source of food, water and shelter. Mammals seen here include mule deer, collared peccary (javelina), coyote, bobcat, desert cottontail and black-tailed jackrabbit. When the weather is hot, dawn and dusk are the best times to view these animals.
Planning Your Trip
Experience the wonders of the area for yourself and plan a trip today to Whitewater Draw. The area features amenities such as restrooms, parking, bus and motor home access, walking trails and interpretive signs, and viewing platforms with binoculars.
Activities: Wildlife-watching, photography, walking, camping in designated areas
Ownership: Arizona Game and Fish Department
Size: 1,500 acres
Closest town: McNeal
Driving directions: *Important – If road conditions are wet, visitors must avoid Bagby Rd and Lee Rd. From Tucson, take I-10 East towards El Paso; merge onto AZ-80 East towards Tombstone/Douglas; turn left onto Davis Rd; turn right onto Coffman Rd. and continue approximately 2.5 miles to the entrance, on the right.
Hours of operation: Open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day
- Overnight public camping is allowed in designated areas only, for no more than three days within a seven day period. Camping is free; however, no utilities are available. There is a vault toilet on site. Open fires are allowed in designated areas only
- Motorized vehicle travel is permitted on designated roads, on designated trails, or in designated areas only
- To prevent catastrophic abandonment of the roost, posted portions of the area are closed to public entry from October 15 through March 15 annually. This closure has minimal impact on viewing opportunities
- Closed to the discharge of center-fire rifled firearms