Kofa National Wildlife Refuge

Arizona > Kofa National Wildlife Refuge

For 57 miles, US 95 cuts through the desert of Southwest Arizona - quite flat, perfectly straight and aligned exactly north-south, and interrupted only by the small town of Quartzsite. In the mild seasons of winter and early spring, much traffic uses the road, bringing sun seekers from all over the US to Yuma and on into Mexico, but few travel to this region in summer, when temperatures of over 120°F are not uncommon. Rain falls on only a few occasions each year - the summer thunderstorms that affect the higher areas of Arizona rarely extend this far. South of Interstate 10, US 95 is bordered by the Yuma Proving Ground to the west and the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge to the east - a protected area 25 x 40 miles in extent with no paved roads or facilities of any kind. The refuge is an excellent place for viewing desert plants and wildlife, rock climbing, exploring old mines, or just camping in remote wilderness.


The most well-known attraction within the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge is Palm Canyon, a narrow, sheltered ravine which is the last significant location in Arizona where palm trees grow in their natural habitat. The road to the mouth of the canyon is a 7 mile gravel track, heavily ribbed for most of its length, that takes around 30 minutes to drive, although it is fine for 2WD cars. There are many other unpaved roads that traverse the 660,000 acres of the refuge, from the Kofa Mountains in the north, across the wide King Valley in the central section to the Castle Dome Mountains towards the south. Most of these require 4WD vehicles, and detailed maps for navigation. East of the NWR lie many more miles of uninhabited valley and mountain wilderness with only limited access. This part of Arizona, between Interstates 8 and 10 is the epitome of a hostile desert environment, but one which is well worth visiting.


Photography, hiking and camping are the main leisure activities, and many days could be spent exploring the refuge. The NWR has dozens of old mines, which are interesting to visit although the unfenced shafts and unstable tunnels can be hazardous. One particularly profitable venture was the King of Arizona Mine, from which this area was named early last century; other mines are still operating, though, and some parts of the refuge are privately owned. colorful rocks and minerals may be found in many places, but collecting is officially permitted in only one location - Crystal Hill, in the far northwest corner.


Various wells and springs that sustain small oases of flourishing plants are found at scattered locations in the mountains, while many species of cacti are widespread across the whole area - most common are the giant saguaro, ferocacti and several types of opuntia. Wildlife, nominally the main focus of the reserve, is rather limited, as expected for this very hot, arid environment. Bighorn sheep are the largest creatures, and a herd now numbering over 1,000 has benefited from artificial enhancement of natural water sources, though they spend most time in the hills and are rarely glimpsed. Typical desert animals such as lizards and snakes are quite easily spotted.


The nearest towns with hotels close to Kofa National Wildlife Refuge are Blythe, Ehrenberg and Yuma.
Highlights: Typically empty and unspoilt expanse of the Sonoran Desert, containing isolated mountain ranges and wide cactus plains, open for backcountry exploration and camping. Includes Palm Canyon, location of a rare grove of palm trees
Nearest city with hotels: Blythe, 40 miles (to Palm Canyon Road)
Management: BLM
Location: 33.360, -114.097 (Palm Canyon)
Seasons: Winter, spring and fall

Kofa NWR - Hiking

Palm Canyon Trail
Palm Canyon Trail
0.75 miles, 400 feet
A short path - steep and uneven in places but not at all difficult - leads along a canyon to a viewpoint of a grove of palm trees

Kofa NWR - Wildflowers

Kofa wildflowers

Photographs and descriptions of flowering plants found in the national wildlife refuge

Kofa NWR - Photography

  • 9 views of Kofa National Wildlife Refuge
  • photograph
    Entrance to the Kofa NWR
    Palm Canyon

    Camping area
    Nearby places Similar places

    Lake Havasu (70 miles from Palm Canyon) - popular lake on the Colorado River
    Nearby places Similar places

    Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge - particularly isolated and hostile desert preserve

    Mountain Palm Springs, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, California - large groups of palm trees

    Sonoran Desert National Monument - extensive desert area either wide of Interstate 8
    Kofa NWR is part of the Arizona Deserts and Colorado River itineraries


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