Tommy J. DeBardeleben

Morgan City Wash Area

Fast Flight Facts

Target Species:  A variety of migrants and regular desert/riparian species

Elevation: 1400'

Habitat:  Lush desert riparian habitat with healthy flowing streams

Overall Birding Rating: 5 (Top 10 Maricopa County Hotspot)

Difficulty: 3-5 (Moderate to Very Difficult)

Birding Type: Moderate to Difficult Hiking

Facilities:  Parking area

Fees/Ownership:  None/Bureau of Land Management

Closest Town or City/How far from Phoenix:  Anthem /29 miles north-northwest of Phoenix

Getting there:  Reached by paved road that branches north just of Highway 74

Overview:  Located just south of Lake Pleasant, Morgan City Wash is almost unnoticeable if passing by the area on Highway 74.  The area is hard to bird, which is why very few birders bird this area.  It's hard to access and relatively hard to navigate through.  However, it is one of the very best places to bird in Maricopa County, where high bird abundance and vagrants can almost be expected.  The beautiful habitat here in this peaceful area is a rare find in these days.  A long description short, what Morgan City Wash really is a lush and flowing riparian area in the middle of the desert.  It is highly made up of willows and mesquite with a few cottonwoods.  Reed-lined pools and ponds may be found here too.  There is endless habitat to go through here, and one can miss birds just as easily as they are seen.  It also meets up at a point near the access area with the Agua Fria River, which the Agua Fria River in this area has similar habitat with incredible birding as well.  The dense riparian forest is surrounded by the sonoran desert.  A birding day here during migration will really give birders a nice bird list with a good diversity.

The Morgan City Wash area's birding has been brought to life by the birding of Troy Corman, who has introduced many birders to this fantastic place.  Troy along with a few other birders have given this place the attention it deserves.  A bird list here of well over 200 species has been recorded, with many of those being extreme rarities.  Perhaps the best feature of that list would be a warbler list of about thirty species.  This means that there have been a lot of rare ones!!

Besides endless rarities, Morgan City Wash also has endless and abundant birdlife.  During spring or fall migration, numbers and diversity are often very high and will keep the birder busy.  Warblers are often the main show here during migration, as they are often very abundant and uncountable.  It is very common to have a ten warbler day at Morgan City Wash.  In migration and winter months, also be on the look out for different hawks, rails, Vaux's Swifts, woodpeckers, flycatchers (the area is great for empids), vireos, swallows, nuthatches, wrens, thrushes, sparrows, and orioles.  Morgan City Wash has produced something unusual for all of these families just listed.

Regular birds to be seen and enjoyed here during the year include Gambel's Quail, Green Heron, Cooper's Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Western Screech-Owl, Lesser Nighthawk, Black-chinned, Anna's, and Costa's Hummingbirds; Gila and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Gilded Flickers, Black and Say's Phoebes, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Bell's Vireo, Cactus, Rock, and Canyon Wrens; Curve-billed and Crissal Thrashers, Phainopepla, Lucy's and Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Northern Cardinal, and Bullock's Oriole. 

Birding Tip:  Morgan City Wash is a hard area to learn at first and takes a few times of birding the area to really learn it.  It's helpful to use navigation tools when first learning the area.  However, now on the Morgan City Wash side of the area, some very nice trails have been developed making the area easier to navigate and bird.  The Agua Fria River side is still a challenge to bird and navigate through.  If one can find the easier trails, then life is made easy for birders attempting to bird the area, which passes through all the incredible habitat that is needed to find birds.  Once the trails are found, the best advice would be to bird this area very slowly and patiently for the best results, carefully scanning flocks of birds and waiting for some species who are more secretive to appear.  There is constantly thick vegetation to go through, be careful of rattlesnakes. 

Directions:  The easiest and closest access to Morgan City Wash can be found 2.4 miles east of the turnoff to the main part of Lake Pleasant Regional Park pn Highway 74 (Carefree Highway). It is accessed by a parking area along the Agua Fria River, where the turnoff is a signed road called Beardsley CSR Road at mile marker 22 of Highway 74.  Parking is located just north of the turnoff at an obvious parking area before Beardsley CSR takes a sharp right turn.  This parking lot gives close access to Morgan City Wash.  See the Morgan City Wash maps under the "Pages" section on this page to have a better understanding of the directions and area.  The trails to access Morgan City Wash can also be found at Lake Pleasant Regional Park, where it is a further hike to access the area.


Morgan City Wash Maps

Morgan City Wash eBird Data


Scenes and Sights from Morgan City Wash:


Birdlife of Morgan City Wash:

Virginia Rail

Cooper's Hawk

Pacific-slope Flycatcher

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Canyon Wren

Great Horned Owl


Back to Area 10-Northwest Maricopa

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