Arizona provides some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in the nation, with more than 900 animal species and 50 million public acres of natural land to explore. You are bound to witness some spectacular sights in Arizona’s varied landscapes if you know where and when to look, what to look for, and how to look for wildlife in any given habitat.
A ride aboard Verde Canyon Railroad, nestled between the Prescott and Coconino National Forests and adjacent to the Sycamore Wilderness area, provides the perfect wildlife viewing opportunity.
What is wildlife viewing?
Wildlife viewing is the activity of watching and enjoying wildlife species in their natural environment. The activity may be as simple as observing a backyard bird feeder, or as adventurous as a moonlit hike through a canyon to watch nocturnal animals scurry about under the cover of dark. It also is called watchable wildlife.
In the Verde Canyon the distinctive confluence of high desert and wetland is populated by a variety of wildlife and waterfowl which thrive among the indigenous foliage along the river.
Why watch wildlife?
- It can provide a fun and inexpensive activity for the entire family to enjoy together.
- It is a relaxing experience that provides a reconnection to nature.
- Observers can gain a better understanding of how wildlife acts in their natural environment, including how they forage for food, where they live and their interaction with other wildlife.
- Seeing wildlife can leave a viewer with a positive, unforgettable and personal experience that they will recall for years to come.
- Wildlife viewing experiences can inspire conservation efforts to benefit wildlife.
- In 2006, wildlife viewing provided more than $825 million to Arizona and its communities.
Added Benefit of Wildlife Viewing
Through a heightened public awareness of the value of wildlife and their habitat comes a personal need to conserve these irreplaceable assets. There are over 74 different species of waterfowl, fish, frogs, insects and mammals that depend on the Verde River for survival.
The ribbons of green vegetation that grow along the banks of the Verde River provide critical habitat for the Canyon’s waterfowl, including the Great Blue Heron. Another highlight of the Verde Canyon Railroad journey is seeing American bald eagles in the wild. These icons of the sky take flight, soaring against an indigo sky to the melody of the train’s wheels on the rails. Through the years eagles have cohabited with the daily passing of the train, much to the delight of passengers and crews. The largest confluence of eagles in the Verde Canyon occurs between December and March.
Bald Eagles Habitat
“The public interest in bald eagles is very gratifying,” said Jamey Driscoll, Arizona Game & Fish Bald Eagle Coordinator. Driscoll is a very special member of the Verde Canyon family, supervising the restoration and preservation of eagle habitat in the Verde Valley area. Working with Arizona Game & Fish since 1992, and involved with bald eagle research for well over 20 years, Driscoll oversees the Arizona Bald Eagle Nestwatch Program as well as the Banding and Identification Program.
In addition to a partnership with Arizona Game & Fish, the Railroad partners with Scottsdale’s Liberty Wildlife to provide passengers with the opportunity to see wild raptors at the depot and aboard the train. Liberty Wildlife has graciously added Verde Canyon Railroad to their annual educational program.
Grab your calendars and mark these dates because they are interactive opportunities you don’t want to miss. Sonora, a very sociable bald eagle, loves to visit with everyone at the train depot. With wings outstretched and eyes scanning the horizon, she mesmerizes all with her fondness for people.
**Last minute schedule changes without prior notice.