Tommy J. DeBardeleben

Goldfield Recreation Site

Fast Flight Facts

Target Species:  Desert Riparian bird species

Elevation: 1400'

Habitat:  Desert Riparian Habitat along the Salt River

Overall Birding Rating: 4

Difficulty: 2-3 (Fairly easy to Moderate)

Birding Type: Moderate Hiking

Facilities:  Parking, restrooms, trailer hookups, camping

Fees/Ownership:  Six dollar Tonto National Forest Fee

Closest Town or City/How far from Phoenix:  Mesa /27 miles east-northeast of Phoenix

Getting there:  Accessed from road that leads a short distance to the recreation site from the Bush Highway

Overview: The Goldfield Recreation Site is a beautiful area, with good habitat variety and excellent views of the Salt River.  Along the entrance road to the recreation site, there is a nice forest of Teddybear Cholla.  Along the Goldfield stretch of the Salt River, a good mix of mesquite, tamarisk, and willows make up a lot of the habitat.  The east side of the area has nice cottonwood groves that are always worth checking. 

Birding wise, this is one of the better areas to bird at along the Salt River.  Raptors are usually the head of the show here, and several species are usually observed per visit.  This is a very reliable area for Harris's Hawks, which are commonly seen on the entrance road to the area perched on the roadside poles.  They are also seen regularly throughout the area, which usually there is a pair of them visible throughout the outing.  Bald Eagles are also commonly along this stretch, and have attempted nesting at this site.  Along the cliffs bordering the north side of the Salt River if you are hiking east along this site, watch for both Peregrine and Prairie Falcons.  This site isn't as good for waterfowl as the other sites, although at times a duck species may be present.  Belted Kingfishers seem to like this spot the most out of any of the other Salt River locations.  It is also a good site to observe White-throated Swifts and different swallows in season.  Year-round birds to watch for here include Green Heron, Cooper's Hawks, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Greater Roadrunner, Gilded Flicker, Black and Say's Phoebes, Vermilion Flycatcher, Cactus and Rock Wrens, Northern Mockingbird, and Curve-billed Thrasher.  Spring and fall migration brings a nice variety of warblers and other passerines to this spot, be sure to keep an eye out for that possible vagrant, especially in the willows along the river and in the cottonwood groves to the east.  Winter sometimes brings Western Bluebirds.

Birding Tip: For the most successful birding outing at this site, work the Salt River east starting from the parking lot.  The best trail to take is located immediately by the very northeast corner of the large parking lot.  A good marker to know where the trail is, is a small cottonwood grove just north of the parking spot.  Once at this spot, take the trail that goes east starting with this small grove of cottonwood trees.  It will continue to take you east along the river, where the trail can be sandy at times and rock rough at others.  It passes through excellent riverside habitat.  The trail gets harder and more limited marking wise as you continue east, but navigation is rather easy.  The cottonwood groves are at this eastern end of the spot probably close to a mile east of the parking lot.  Follow these groves for a good distance to look for migrants and resident birds alike.  Cooper's Hawks have nested in these cottonwoods.  No matter where you are along this hike along the east end of Goldfield Recreation Site, the Salt River is always close by. 

Directions:  If coming north up the Bush Highway, the Goldfield Recreation Site will be the fourth stop just after the Coon Bluff Recreation Area, between mile markers 26 and 27, a little east of 27.  Turn to the north on N Usery Pass Rd for just over a mile once you reach the turnoff to the site and follow the road until you reach the parking lot.


Goldfield Recreation Site Map

Goldfield Recreation Site eBird Data


Sights and Scenes of the Goldfield Recreation Site:


Birdlife of Goldfield Recreation Site

Bald Eagles

Black-and-white Warbler (rarity)


Back to Area 2-Lower Salt River Recreation Area

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