Tommy J. DeBardeleben

Agua Fria Riverbed

Fast Flight Facts

Target Species:  Shorebirds, gulls, terns, ducks, and other waterbirds

Elevation: 1020'

Habitat:  Open water in river bed

Overall Birding Rating: 3

Difficulty: 1 (Easy)

Birding Type: Walking and scanning

Facilities:  None

Fees/Ownership:  None/City of Phoenix

Closest Town or City/How far from Phoenix:  Glendale /14.2 miles northwest of Phoenix

Getting there:  Dirt pull off off of Camelback Road west of the Loop 101

Overview:  The Agua Fria Riverbed is a great stop to check for waterbirds and has often produced rarities.  While in the area when birding the Glendale Recharge Ponds, make the Agua Fria Riverbed one of your stops, which is a no brainier with it's good shorebird habitat similar to the Glendale Recharge Ponds, and it's only a few minutes away.  It's not pretty by any means, but the birds will get the job done!  This riverbed will sometimes be very deep while other times will consist of mudflats and very shallow pools.

The potential this place has is great and has already attracted many rare birds.  To name a few-a Common Loon in May, Black-bellied Plover, a spring Sanderling, Herring Gull, Least Tern, Elegant Tern, and still more to come.  With rarities like that, this place needs to be payed close attention too.  In season, the waterfowl and shorebird numbers will be high as long as there is water.  The area is also very good for raptors, as Osprey, Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon are seen regularly.  A variety of shorebirds may be seen any visit, especially in the fall.  A Marbled Godwit flock of at least 50 birds landed on one of the islands here, which was incredible.  This spot really seems to be good for terns as well.  There have been times when Least, Forster's and Black Terns have all been seen in a day.  The Forster's and Least have sat side-by-side, giving excellent size comparisons.  Swallows are another group of birds this place is good for in the right time of year.

Birding Tip:  Always bring a scope to this spot, birding here is very difficult without one.  Once you park, you will see many pillars heading south that say "No Trespassing, east or south of here".  It is basically being said that people are not wanted in the riverbed, but despite the no trespassing signs, it is still ok to bird here.  There is another sign permitting foot travel, but clearly saying no vehicle travel.  If one has a scope, it is best to walk down along the bank and scan where you are looking down on the riverbed.  The bank really gives good viewing options that are well above the water levels.

Directions:  To reach the Agua Fria riverbed, head west a short distance on Camelback Road past 107th Avenue.  Once reaching the huge bridge that goes over the Agua Fria River, parking is available on the very west side of the bridge.  There is a dirt pull off.  Vehicles are only permitted to park roadside to protect natural values in the area.  Sometimes when Camelback Road is crowded it is necessary to keep going and turn around so that pulling off the road will be much easier when heading back in the east direction.  Just like the Glendale Recharge Ponds, the Agua Fria Riverbed is best accessed by taking the Camelback exit off of the loop 101 and continuing shortly west after 107th and Camelback.


Agua Fria Riverbed Map

Agua Fria Riverbed eBird Data


Scenes and Sights from the Agua Fria Riverbed:


Birdlife of the Agua Fria Riverbed:

Elegant Tern (very rare in Arizona)


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