|Map of the western portion of the refuge|
|Sonoran desert and cottonwood/willow/mesquite riparian come together on the Bill Williams River. This photo was taken just after the gate on Planet Ranch Rd.|
A person walking along the edge of the forest anywhere along Planet Ranch Road is likely to encounter flagging, some of which marks trails entering the forest. I can't stress enough the importance of staying off these trails. Researchers create and use them for a variety of projects on the refuge. The flagging comes in many colors depending on the project, year, and type of trail. The trails crisscross and backtrack, some lead into ponds or river channels, and many are disused and being reclaimed by the forest. Sometimes the flagging just ends. Navigating these trails requires a knowledge of the flagging systems, a detailed and updated map, and a good handheld GPS unit and compass (not to mention a willingness to crouch, squeeze, climb, bellycrawl, wade, and be scratched up). Recently, hikers entered the trail system at Mosquito Flats, and eventually became hopelessly lost. They managed to find a spot with cell reception and called the Sheriff's department. The Sheriff's department flagged their way along the trails, got lost, but eventually (miraculously) found the hikers on the other side of the river, dehydrated but otherwise okay. Don't try to hike the trails.
|There's a trail in there somewhere|
Birding along the road, you may run across a binoculars sign underneath a double power pole, indicating a nature trail. More than once I've overheard people saying "Hey, this isn't a trail!" It is just a short trail that cuts through the thick mesquite and reaches into the forest, where it ends at one of those research trails I mentioned. Still, even though it is short, it's worth checking out.
|Check out this short jaunt into the forest|
|The end of the road|
|Biologists wading in the river|
|The river crossing just before Kohen Ranch|
|Bermuda grass fields at Kohen Ranch|
|Scenery between Kohen Ranch and Cougar Point|