Saturday, January 11, 2014

An Oasis in the Sonoran Desert

Tall Palms

When we finished up with work and school this afternoon, we decided to take a drive through the desert to Wickenburg.  Earlier in the week, I had done a little research and found the Hassayampa River Preserve in Wickenburg.

Hassayampa River Preserve

Visitor Center


The Preserve is operated by The Nature Conservancy, and they have a Visitor Center and several trails along the Hassayampa River.

From their website:

For most of its 100-mile course through the desert, the Hassayampa River flows only underground. But within the preserve its crystal clear waters emerge, flowing above ground throughout the year. This lush streamside habitat is home to some of the desert’s most spectacular wildlife. Yet many of them have become dangerously imperiled as riparian areas have disappeared from the Arizona landscape.”

We checked in with the volunteer in the Visitor Center, paid our entrance fee, and set out for the trails.  We started out on the River Ramble.

Lots of trees lining the river


It felt strange to be hiking through the woods, along a stream, when we were in the middle of the desert. 

It was a beautiful day, and the trees provided just enough shade from the sun to make the temperature absolutely perfect!

River Ramble Trail

From the River Ramble, we continued on to Lyke’s Lookout.  This short trail included a steep climb, but provided beautiful panoramic views of the preserve and the surrounding desert.

Desert in the distance

The view from Lyke's Lookout









We broke out our snacks while we enjoyed the view, and on the way back down the boys couldn’t resist a little rock-climbing adventure.

Doing a little rock climbing


Nicolas follows him up

OK, that’s far enough . . .

Sitting on a shelf

Now they just have to get back down . . .

Now they have to get down!



Had to try a little tree climbing, too.

In the tree stump

Back to the river, we continued along the River Ramble until we reached the Lion’s Loop.

Lion Loop

There was plenty of downed wood along the river, and we all found nice walking sticks – too bad we didn’t have those when we climbed up and down that hill!

Bryce’s walking stick was a little long . . .


Based on the tracks we were seeing, we weren’t the only ones enjoying the beautiful day and the walk along the river . . . there were plenty of animal tracks, too!

Hassayampa River

The river is lined with Cottonwood and Mesquite,

Along the river


Mesquite Canopy


with some of them forming canopies over the trail.  At the end of the Lion Loop, we walked to the other side of the Visitor Center where we picked up the Palm Lake Loop.

Are we really still in Arizona??!!

Circle of Palms

Palm Tree

Walking through the palms, a Great Blue Heron flew out from under a tree, crashing through the brush, and scared us half to death . . . now we really feel like we’re back in Florida . . . if we see an alligator in that pond . . .

Tall Palm Trees

We stopped for a few pictures in the “jungle”.


In the jungle

The Palm Lake Loop was a wide, smooth path that circled the lake – more like a pond.

Palm Lake Loop

There were several benches around the lake for resting and enjoying the view. 

Palm Lake

The trail wasn’t strenuous at all, but Tom stopped to take a little break.

Taking a break



The Mesquite Meander Trail branches off the Palm Lake Loop and follows the Hassayampa River.




Meandering on the Mesquite Meander Trail

The Preserve is supposed to be a “bird-watcher’s paradise” . . . maybe we just aren’t observant enough, but we didn’t see too many birds. 

Mesquite Meander










We walked a total of about 3 miles, and even though we didn’t see many birds, other than the Great Blue Heron, it was still a great afternoon to be outside enjoying the beautiful weather – and we didn’t even have to worry about jumping cholla!!



It was a pleasant surprise to find this wooded area in the middle of the desert, and we enjoyed our afternoon of walking in the woods!







From the Preserve, we continued into Wickenburg. 

Wickenburg - 1863


It’s a small town, but looks like it’s experiencing some growth . . . there’s a Basha’s and a Safeway, but still no Walmart!





We headed to the historic downtown, where one of the “things to do” is to check out the sculptures around town.


We saw the Miner with his donkey,

Miner with donkey

the Cowboy and Dance Hall Girl,

Cowboy & Dance Hall Girl

and the Jail Tree.

Jail Tree











We also saw a Soldier outside the American Legion, although he wasn’t listed on the website as one of the “official” sculptures.




There are several small sculptures around town, too, and we found 3 of the 4 desert inhabitants.

Gila Monster



We walked up and down the streets of the historic downtown, checking out the restaurants along the way, and a cool boot & saddle shop – Denise would LOVE this place!


We finally decided on the Hog Trough for dinner,

Yummy BBQ

and got ourselves some Kansas City-style BBQ . . . it was very good!

We had just enough room left after dinner to try some homemade ice cream at Chaparral’s . . .

Had to have some ice cream!









Tom and Nick tried Prickly Pear, I had Hassayampa Mud (chocolate & coffee), and Bryce played it safe with cherry vanilla . . . all good . . . but we did have dinner first!

A nice finish to a great afternoon!


  1. of your hike really did look like Florida!!! You sure packed a lot of activity in a short amount of time:o))

  2. What a great way to spend the day! We liked that area too and boondocked just between Wickenburg and the North Ranch RV park... some nice desert land out there to enjoy!~

    Karen and Steve
    (Blog) RVing: The USA Is Our Big Backyard


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