A Visit to Kofa

Yuma, AZ

It’s been a while since we have seen our friends, Paul and Marsh (Where’s Weaver), so when our travel paths finally crossed in Yuma, we took the opportunity to spend the day with them and share a bit of hiking.

Just north of Yuma is the huge Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.  The refuge, established in 1939 to protect desert bighorn sheep, encompasses over 665,400 acres  of the Yuma Desert region of the Sonoran Desert.  The name Kofa comes from a former area gold mine: the King of Arizona mine (active from 1897 to 1910), with Kofa a contraction of the name.

Al from The Bayfield Bunch (a blog Pam follows) has hiked in the area with his wife, Kelly, over the last few years and was kind enough to email a great set of directions for a couple of good hiking destinations.  So early Thursday morning (OK, early for us, not for the Weavers) we picked up Paul and Marsha and headed north on Rte. 95.   At mile marker 76 we turned east on King Valley Road, a gravel park road.  A few miles later we turned to the south on to a Jeep road (one that requires high vehicle clearance) labeled 42 on the map for a four mile ride to the first stop, the Horse, Grey, Arch, and Bandy Tanks.

Park road 42

Tanks in the desert are depressions that collect rain water.  In Kofa the many tanks provide a vital source of drinking water to wildlife during the long dry spells.  Once we arrived at the end of the road, it was just a short hike up some rocks to these tanks.

Heading up to the Horse tank

The first tank was a fairly large pond with plenty of water.

Large tank (note John standing to its left)

The tanks in this area have been enhanced by concrete spillways added by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to increase the amount of water captured during periods of rain.

A concrete spillway

Climbing back down from above the tanks

Back down the trail

Al’s directions had another spot to check out about a quarter mile back down the road, so we went past the Jeep and hiked up a small wash to check them out.

Two old guys in Sleeping Man Cave

John always seeks out a spot with a bit of elevation with a view for a lunch break and the rest of the group were so happy to follow him up the hill!

“What’s that Marsha? I can’t hear you up here!”

Two former NFL cheerleaders stop for a photo op

Group photo

Just after the group photo was taken there was a technology incident with a fatal casualty.   Marsha’s camera, mounted on a tripod, tripped and fell on to the rocks (and the rocks won)!  A trip to the Yuma BestBuy is on the horizon!

Lunch with a view

Near the peak where we enjoyed lunch is another large mound with a small, sheltered area in the rocks.  A healthy covering of lichens surrounding the opening add some great color to the scene.

Grinding Cave

The cave was evidently highly used by early inhabitants of the area, as it contains a number of very deep morteros (round holes in rock created by grinding grain).

These are very deep morteros

After completing our hiking in this area, we returned to Rte. 95 and drove north to mile marker 85, and turned right on to Palm Canyon Road.  About two miles up Palm Canyon Road we stopped to check out a “Circle of Life” someone had constructed in one of the dry camping lots.

The circle looks pretty cool when you zoom in on it using Google Satellite.

About seven miles from the main road, Palm Canyon Road ends in a parking area, the trailhead for the Palm Canyon Trail.

Hiking up into Palm Canyon

Looking back down to the south from inside the canyon

After about a mile of hiking up into the canyon we came to a small sign.  The sign is well-placed, as we may not have looked up to our left to see the palms.


A zoom helps to see the Palm Canyon

Palm Canyon is a unique natural feature predominantly known for the native palm trees that grow in the canyon. These are rare in Arizona and are likely relics of a geological period when the area was wetter and cooler.

Returning back to the highway we made the most important stop of the day!  Date Shakes!  If you’ve never experienced the joy of a date shake, don’t miss the opportunity if it presents itself.  The vendor at this little stop along Rte. 95 was very proud of his shakes.  They only contain three things: French vanilla ice cream, whole milk, and chopped dates.  Delicious!

We had a great day exploring Kofa National Wildlife Refuge with Paul and Marsha.  On Saturday we both head out on I-8.  Paul and Marsha head west to Anza-Borrego while we will head east toward Why, AZ for a visit to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  We found a good park there using the new website “Campendium.”  Our friends Leigh and Brian of Aluminarium have been hard at work for a couple of years constructing this new source of parks and campgrounds and have recently opened it up to the public.  If you need to find a park or campground in your travels check it out.  We think you’ll like it!

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29 Responses to A Visit to Kofa

  1. Laurel says:

    What a fun day you had with friends! While I’m laughing I’m learning some really interesting stuff from your posts. Did you use that same technique with your students?? We can’t wait to hike with you guys!

  2. ecrab1957 says:

    After seeing your photo, I just had to pull up Google satellite and see the circle of life someone had made; its really cool just like you said. Kudos to you folks for posting such a great blog; it allows those of us who can’t, live the RV dream anyway…

  3. Any day that involves driving down a gravel park road in a jeep is a great day! Loved the palms.

  4. colibabas says:

    Wow…you guys were just down the road from us when you were at Palm Canyon. We’re in Q. Would be nice to meet you both one day. The Kofa Palm Canyon isn’t nearly as impressive as the one at Borrego.
    Safe travels!

    • placestheygo says:

      Sorry we weren’t over this way for the Blogger Feast so we could have met many of the people in Q. One day we’ll be close enough to meet:)

      I agree that after seeing the main Palm Canyon in Anza Borrego, this was not that impressive. But it is kind of neat how far up the steep narrow canyon they are. We were really hoping to spot a bighorn sheep for our friends.

  5. Sherry says:

    I just love your pictures and the captions. The waving jeep, the cheerleaders. The colors and views are wonderful. Looks like a fun hike and happy people. You guys take such good pictures. I always look forward to the feet in the view shot. Date shakes seem like an appropriate reward for a day of hiking. Is the circle of life a labyrinth that you could walk? Doesn’t really look like it but that would be neat.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks so much, Sherry, for the compliment. So glad you enjoyed John’s wonderful sense of humor:)

      The labyrinth was about eight inches wide. We did walk to the center (none of those photos were in the blog) because at one time there were several momentos there but someone removed them.

  6. Looks like a terrific day in Kofa…a place we have yet to explore. Thanks for taking me there! I agree, date shakes are worth a stop!

    • placestheygo says:

      Kofe was very interesting. There must be at least 50 water tanks within the park. It’s a “create your own trail” kind of park with tons of steep climbs and rock scrambling. Boondocking is the best way to see the place.

  7. Jim and Barb says:

    We past Kofa traveling between Q and Yuma. We talked about stopping but did not really know too much about it. We are bringing our Jeep next year and will definitely make a point of hiking this area as well. Thanks for the information!

    • placestheygo says:

      Jim and Barb, I learned about Kofa NWP from Al in his blog. They go there at least once a year and boondock. They have many outstanding posts on the area which is what turned me on to the place. Make sure you check it out! A Jeep is a must when out west:)

  8. Ingrid says:

    Those Palms in the middle of the desert are an unexpected treat. Looks like a fun time was had by all. “Lunch with a view”…. did someone loose a foot along with breaking a camera?

    • placestheygo says:

      Haha! I thought of that, Ingrid, when I saw the photo. Marsha was sitting in between Paul’s legs so we lost a foot:)

      It is so surprising how many canyons have palm groves. We saw many groves in the various canyons we hiked in Anza Borrego.

  9. Gay says:

    It’s always a great day when you can get out on the trails! So cool to see the palms in the desert!
    I will have to add Kofa NWR to our list of wildlife refuges to visit…

  10. Looks like you all had a great day at Kofa. Wish we could have joined you!

  11. pmbweaver says:

    What a fabulous day we had. Talking, laughing and even some hiking. Perfect.

    Thanks dear friends for fitting us in your very busy schedule. We had a blast. And I got a new camera out of the deal.

    John….great header photo!

  12. Jodee Gravel says:

    Funny, I could hear what Marsha was saying to John just fine……. Sorry to see Paul lost a foot during lunch, but amazed that it reappeared later! Love the group shots, fun people having fun 🙂 Don’t you know the park service got so tired of people saying they hiked all the way up there and there were no dang palms anywhere?! The genius who put up the sign is their hero I’m sure. Love me a date shake!!

    • placestheygo says:

      Jodee, so glad you enjoyed John’s humor!! Yes, you heard Marsha loud and clear:)

      I never gave it a thought about the palm sign but what you said makes perfect sense since we all thought the palms were ahead of us not beside us.

  13. Date shake! that is what we missed when we were at China Ranch in CA. Fabulous day to hike with friends. Great pictures everywhere especially those palms by the canyons. We are starting a new list of things to do and where to hike when we get out butts there. 🙂

  14. LuAnn says:

    I definitely want to experience Kofa. You four had a fabulous day. Love the Circe of Life.

  15. Holly Ritger says:

    Sounds like you guys had a wonderful day hiking together. I liked following along with your post and photos. You mentioned Organ Pipe National Monument… In 2011, we spent 4 nights in Ajo, and stayed at Ajo Heights RV Park. It was a very nice area with great cactus, and a good RV park. I really liked where we stayed, but wish there had been more restaurants : )

  16. Leigh says:

    Thanks for the shout out you guys! 🙂

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