Tommy J. DeBardeleben

Box Bar Recreation Site

Fast Flight Facts

Target Species:  Desert Riparian species

Elevation: 1550'

Habitat:  Lush cottonwood, willow, and mesquite habitat along the Verde River

Overall Birding Rating: 5

Difficulty: 1-3 (Easy to Moderate)

Birding Type: Easy to Moderate Hiking

Facilities:  Parking

Fees/Ownership:  $6.00 Tonto Forest Pass/Tonto National Forest

Closest Town or City/How far from Phoenix:  Rio Verde /31 miles northeast of Phoenix

Getting there:  Reached from dirt road just off Rio Verde Drive

Overview:  Located just north of the town of Rio Verde, the Box Bar Recreation Site is an amazing stretch of riparian habitat nestled along the Verde River, as this recreation site is part of the Tonto National Forest.  This area has great stands of willow and cottonwoods all along the river with a lot to explore in a morning's worth of birding.  Mesquite bosque also makes up a good amount of the habitat.  The groves of willows and cottonwoods have an "endless" feel here, as these impressive stands are well spread out throughout the area both riverside as well as away from the river.  Good birding will be at the Box Bar Recreation Site at all times of the year, but especially during the spring and fall migrations.  This is an under birded site that really deserves more attention.

In this area, the east side of the Verde River is closed half of the year due to nesting Bald Eagles in the area.  Bald Eagle nesting sites are protected throughout the state in Arizona, with this area being one of the key places of chosen breeding for Arizona's Bald Eagles.  The close by Salt River Recreation Area offers a much better chance of seeing breeding Bald Eagles in the desert, as there are more nests.  Other breeding birdlife here at Box Bar will include Cooper's Hawk, White-winged Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Barn, Western Screech, and Great Horned Owls; Gilded Flicker, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Bell's Vireo, Lucy's Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Summer Tanager, Northern Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, and Bullock's Oriole. 

Spring and fall migrations here will have a lot of potential, with great migrant possibilities both common and rare. 

Birding Tip:  On a good note, at the Box Bar Recreation Site, the west side of the Verde River offers a more dense area to bird in the great stands of willow, cottonwood, and mesquite, as the east side is closed over half of the year due to Bald Eagles nesting.  The time period the east side of the Verde River is closed is from December 1st through June 30th.  Due to the fact the best birding lies on the west side of the river, it's almost pointless to cross over to the east side of the river with much less of the great habitat.  Birding wise, the best technique for birding at this spot would be to carefully work through the cottonwood, willow, and mesquite habitats to provide a better chance at seeing a variety of different species in the trees and along the river.  During migration, perhaps even make a couple "rounds" through the area.  Migration here will be abundant, you never know what you might miss an a first go around.  This is a fee spot as well, which a Tonto National Forest Recreation Pass is required for vehicles wanting to park in the area.  The daily use pass may be purchased for six dollars at local gas stations near the area.

Directions:  From the Loop 101-East (Pima Freeway), take Pima Road north for 6.7 miles to E. Dynamite Blvd.  Once at E. Dynamite Blvd, head east (turn right), for about 13 miles.  Dynamite Blvd turns into E Rio Verde Drive and at about 13 miles, Rio Verde Drive reaches it's end and intersects with N. Fort McDowell Road south of Rio Verde Drive, and N. Forest Road north of Rio Verde Drive.  Fort McDowell Road turns into N. Forest Road.  Head north shortly (left turn) on N. Forest Road for 0.1 miles and turn east (right) onto Box Bar Road.  Follow Box Bar Road for 0.7 miles to the parking area at the recreation site.


Box Bar Recreation Site Maps

Box Bar Recreation Site eBird Data


Scenes and Sights from the Box Bar Recreation Site:


Birdlife of the Box Bar Recreation Site:

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Great Blue Heron


Back to Area 12-Lower Verde River

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