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.
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. View the live web cam.
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.
Your financial contributions help us hit the high-water mark that makes Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area the best place in southeastern Arizona to view migratory sandhill cranes from October to March. Up to 30,000 sandhill cranes roost there annually, protecting themselves from such predators as coyotes by standing in water. Whitewater Draw is a natural drainage that is can only be maintained as a wetland by pumping water into it to offset lacking runoff. So join our successful team effort with the southeastern Arizona birding community by making a contribution today.
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: From Tucson, take I-10 east toward El Paso; merge onto AZ-80 east toward Tombstone/Douglas; turn left onto Davis Road; turn right onto North Central Highway; turn right onto west Bagby Road; turn right onto Coffman Road
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