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Salt and Verde Riparian Ecosystem IBA

Salt River by Phillip Capper

Salt River by Phillip Capper

Identified: 07/2002   Recognized: 11/2010, Fossil Creek added 6/2019.

Counties: Maricopa, Yavapai

Site Status: Identified

Ownership: Tonto National Forest, Fort McDowell Mohave Apache Community

Size: 24.3 square miles, 15,523 acres

Criteria: B1(Potential): Continental: Species of Conservation Concern (Lucy’s Warbler, Southwest Willow Flycatcher, Gilded Flicker)

D1: State: Species of Conservation Concern (Bald Eagle –SW population)

D3: State: Species in rare/unique habitat (Riparian)

D4vii: State: outstanding landbird stopover


Gilded Flicker by Alan Schmierer

Gilded Flicker by Alan Schmierer

Site Description: This IBA is comprised of sections of two large rivers, the Salt and the Verde, that come together just east of Phoenix. The Salt River section extends from Saguaro Lake’s Stewart Mountain Dam, along the riparian corridor of the Salt River west to the confluence with the Verde River, and the Verde River section is the riparian corridor from Childs, AZ to its confluence with the Salt River. The northern most 15 miles have been designated as a “Wild River”, under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. This stretch of river is within the large designated U.S. Forest Service Mazatzal Wilderness, the largest forest Wilderness in Arizona. The Bartlett and Horseshoe Reservoirs (part of the Verde River), are operated by the Salt River Project, Inc. In 2019 Fossil Creek stretch was added to this IBA as an important bird habitat for breeding and visiting birds.

Maricopa Audubon Society conducts the Salt and Verde River Christmas Bird Count that includes a portion of this IBA. Information about how to volunteer through Maricopa Audubon Society is available at their web site.


Ornithological Summary: This IBA contains about approximately 1/3 of all Bald Eagle nest areas in the state of Arizona (13/42 in 2003). The Yellow-billed Cuckoo nests here, as well good numbers of Southwestern Willow Flycatchers (19 individuals detected, 11 territories in 2003). Lucy’s Warbler, Abert’s Towhee, and Common Black-Hawk are known to occur in the IBA from birder reports, all are species of conservation status.

Conservation Issues: Livestock grazing is a key stressor affecting the under-story and mid-story avian habitat along the Verde River. Recreation uses, including boating on the lakes and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), have the potential to disturb nesting birds, particularly Bald Eagles, Common Black-Hawks, cuckoos, and the endangered population of Southwestern Willow Flycatchers. All-terrain vehicles (ATVs), have impacted flood plain vegetation and caused erosion. Arizona Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Forest Service have a Bald Eagle nestwatch program and implement seasonal closures to the public during the eagle nesting period. Seasonal off-highway vehicle patrols and public awareness campaigns sponsored by both agencies and the Maricopa County Sheriff are efforts to stem the impacts of off-trail vehicle use.