Willcox Playa Wildlife Area
A visit to the Willcox Playa Wildlife Area offers a rich experience in an otherwise desert environment. Bird-watching at the playa and associated habitats is a fantastic way to spend a day or a weekend. Birds that can be seen range from shorebirds to the always enjoyable flocks of sandhill cranes that are the focus of the annual Wings over Willcox birding festival. Recreational Opportunities
Bird-watching and photography: Each winter, hundreds of species of birds visit the Willcox Playa Wildlife Area. Growing interest in viewing this wildlife sparked an annual event, Wings over Willcox. The festival features education, food, and crafts, as well as tours to see the sandhill cranes and other wildlife.
Hunting: Typically thought of as the best sandhill crane hunting spot in the state, this area offers excellent waterfowl opportunities as well. During wet years, numerous waterfowl can be found around the Playa. The Willcox Playa Wildlife Area is located within Game Management Unit 30A.
Note: The sandhill crane hunting season is very limited. It usually takes place in November. Be advised that posted portions of the area are closed to hunting.
- Open fires allowed in designated sites only
- No firewood cutting or gathering
- Overnight public camping allowed in designated areas only, for no more than five days within a 14-day period
- Motorized vehicle travel permitted on designated roads, on designated trails, or in designated areas only
- Posted portions closed to public entry from Oct. 15 through March 15 annually
- Open to hunting in season, except posted portions closed to hunting from Oct. 15 through March 15 annually.
Location: Willcox Playa Wildlife Area is located seven miles south of Willcox in Cochise County, Arizona.
Directions: From Willcox, take Highway 186 approximately five miles. Turn right (south) on the Kansas Settlement Road for about three to five miles. Turn right (west) into the wildlife area parking area.
Birds: Migratory waterfowl and sandhill cranes rely on this wildlife area for roosting and loafing habitat. Private farms surrounding the wildlife area provide feeding habitat for these non-resident visitors. Other birds that visit the area include Swainson’s hawk and black-necked stilt, as well as many different migratory songbirds.
Mammals: Javelina and mule deer use this wildlife area.
Amphibians and Reptiles: Plains leopard frog, western green toad and Mexican hog-nosed snakes inhabit the area. Area Description Willcox Playa is an ancient closed basin lakebed with an elevation range from 4,100 feet to 4,500 feet.
Annual temperatures range from 29°F in the winter to 105°F in the summer. Precipitation is 11.8 inches annually. Most rainfall occurs from July through September.
Desert riparian plants
– Saltcedar, Tamarix sp.
– Saltgrass, Distichlis spicata
– Cottonwood, Populus sp.
– Sacaton grass
– Willows, Salix spp.
Management History, Objectives and Goals
The Willcox Playa Wildlife Area is about 595 acres, including 120 acres of deeded land, 320 acres of land patented from the Bureau of Land Management, a 115-acre perpetual right-of-way from the Arizona State Land Department, and a 40 acre donation from a private land owner.
Management emphasis for the Willcox Playa Wildlife Area is to support the best wildlife habitat possible on the wildlife area for present and future generations. This emphasis includes keeping opportunities available for public hunting and other wildlife-oriented recreation.