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Why You Should Visit Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona

Why You Should Visit Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge is one of the more than 560 National Wildlife Refuges managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These parks aim to conserve and protect some of the most iconic species found on land and in water across the country. If you’re looking for a unique and inspiring place to visit and see wildlife, Kofa National Wildlife Refuge is one to consider.

Let’s see why you should consider visiting it!

Always keep your distance when viewing wildlife.

About Kofa National Wildlife Refuge

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge is over 540,000 acres and receives its name from an acronym for a well-known gold mine in the area, King of Arizona. The park was initially established in 1939 to protect the desert bighorn sheep and other native wildlife.

The Arizona Boy Scouts saw the importance of protecting the wildlife and launched a campaign that caught the attention of lawmakers to protect the land.

Where is Kofa National Wildlife Refuge?

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge sits in the southwest corner of Arizona. It’s approximately two and a half hours west of Phoenix and an hour north of Yuma, Arizona. If you find yourself in Quartzsite, Ariz., a very popular winter home for many RVers, you’re only 30 minutes north of the refuge.

Pro Tip: Quartzsite, AZ ranks high amongst many RVers favorite boondocking spots! This is how to Prepare for Boondocking in Quartzsite, AZ.

RV in arizona
Kofa is just south of one of the prime RV gathering spots called Quartzsite. It’s a great place to visit if you’re RVing in this area!

How Much Does It Cost to Enter Kofa National Wildlife Refuge?

There are no fees charged for visiting Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. Who doesn’t like the sound of free? However, despite being free, don’t let that cause you to lower your expectations. The refuge provides many opportunities for guests to connect with nature and enjoy the natural environment that helps the various wildlife thrive.

When Is the Best Time to Visit the Refuge?

The best time to visit Kofa National Wildlife Refuge is in winter. The summer heat can be incredibly dangerous to humans, and most of the animals in the refuge are very inactive. As a result, you’re going to be miserable and you won’t see many animals. If you’re hoping to spot wildlife, they’re most active at dawn and dusk. 

Bring a pair of binoculars and remain as quiet and still as possible. Many guests will bring a chair to sit and take in the landscapes. With a little bit of patience and some luck, you may get the chance to spot some of the wildlife that the refuge serves to protect.

Why You Should Visit Kofa National Wildlife Refuge

There are a handful of reasons we think Kofa National Wildlife Refuge is worth visiting. Let’s take a closer look at why you should add it to your future travel plans. Let’s get started!

1. Enjoy Premium Wildlife Watching

The desert can seem barren, but the wildlife refuge is home to unique animals. Visiting early in the morning and at sunset can be your best chance to spot wildlife.

Visitors often see jackrabbits, lizards, rattlesnakes, and desert bighorn sheep. However, there have also been some sightings of mountain lions, coyotes, bats, and a desert tortoise or two.

While you might not be excited to see all of these animals in the wild (especially rattlesnakes), you can limit any potential danger if you keep your distance from these animals.

2. See the Endangered Sonoran Pronghorn

The Sonoran Pronghorn has the nickname the “desert ghost.” It’s a very elusive and speedy animal and the fastest land animal in North America. It’s similar to the pronghorn that frequent the Great Plains and Great Basin region of the country.

When we say it’s fast, we mean it. These lightweight and genetically unique creatures can reach top speeds of 60 mph when sprinting. That’s fast enough to earn them a ticket on some highways!

Sadly, as of 2020, there were only an estimated 160 Sonoran Pronghorn left in the United States. So consider yourself very incredibly lucky if you have the chance to spot one!

3. Go Birdwatching

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge is also home to some incredible species of birds. While visiting the refuge, keep your eyes on the skies. You may just spot a bald eagle, condor, puffin, or even one of the many spoonbills.

This wildlife refuge is a tremendous place for birds to build nests, rest, feed their young, and breed. As a result, the refuge has earned a world-renowned reputation from birding enthusiasts.

kofa national wildlife refuge  mountain in sunset

4. The Night Sky Is Beautiful

The remote location of Kofa National Wildlife Refuge makes it an ideal place for stargazing. With very little light pollution, you can enjoy night skies as you’ve never seen in your entire life. Find a quiet place to park and give your eyes plenty of time to adjust as you take in the beautiful night sky.

Many photographers enjoy taking advantage of the opportunity to capture breathtaking photographs of the night skies. While it takes some practice, the desert landscapes can be the perfect backdrop for night sky photographs.

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge Camping | RV Living Full Time Off Grid

5. Collect Quartz Crystals in the Park

If you enjoy rockhounding, there are tremendous opportunities to find rocks and minerals in the park’s northwest corner at Crystal Hill. However, it’s important to take note of the restrictions that limit rockhounds to 10 specimens or 10 lbs, whichever comes first. 

More than 100 years ago, gold miners flocked to the area. While many rockhounds diligently search for quartz, there’s a chance gold miners didn’t collect all the gold remains. You never know what you might find while searching for rocks here!

Tips for Responsible Wildlife Viewing

The park is home to some impressive and rare wildlife. The park’s goal is to protect these animals and maintain their natural habitat. Here are a few tips for viewing wildlife responsibly.

Keep Your Distance

You should never approach the wildlife, whether they appear dangerous or not. Guests tend to forget that what they’re seeing is a wild animal. As cute and cuddly as it may seem, it can also be incredibly dangerous. By keeping your distance, you protect yourself and the animal itself.

There have been many instances where parks have had to relocate or destroy animals due to negative interactions with guests. For some animals, the recommendations for keeping distance are more than suggestions, but the law. There have been guests to parks that were fined or received jail time due to not keeping their distance from the wildlife.

woman standing too close to big horn sheep wildlife

Don’t Feed the Animals

Whether it’s because people think it’s funny or they’re ignorant to what they’re doing, you should never feed wild animals. The goal of a wildlife refuge is to protect the animals and their habitats. When humans feed wild animals, they become dependent on humans for their food and lose their natural survival instincts.

If you want to feed animals, visit a farm, petting zoo, or a zoo that offers that experience. A wildlife refuge or any similar park is not the place to share your food with animals.

Pro Tip: We took a closer look at 5 Reasons to Not Feed the Wildlife While Camping to help keep you and the animals safe and sound.

Observe Quietly

Your best shot at spotting wildlife is to be as quiet as possible while observing. If you’re visiting with kids, it may be best to observe as much as you can from your vehicle. You don’t want younger kids to ruin the quietness for others trying to catch a glimpse of a rare animal.

Stay in One Spot

In addition to being quiet, it’s best to stay in one spot. Many animals will scurry away the minute they detect movement or hear loud noises. They’re trying to seek shelter and may not find the presence of humans to be all that welcoming.

Many will bring chairs and umbrellas to stay comfortable and protect themselves from the sun. Bring your binoculars and plenty of water so you can stay for as long as possible to give yourself the best shot at spotting all sorts of wildlife in the refuge.

Visiting The Largest RV Gathering in the World, Quartzsite AZ - Mondays with the Mortons

Should You Visit Kofa National Wildlife Refuge?

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge and the many other national wildlife refuges across the country are all worth a visit. At many of these places, you’re able to catch glimpses of some of the rarest animals in the entire country.

Some animals are on the cusp of extinction, and the wildlife refuge and its officials are fighting to rebuild the populations. Make sure when you visit that you respect the animals, the environment, and the men and women fighting to protect them.

Is Kofa National Wildlife Refuge on your bucket list? Tell us in the comments!

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Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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