New closures will help Arizona’s bald eagles repopulate this holiday season

Dec 22, 2023, 4:05 AM

Arizona's bald eagles are endangered...

Santa may give us presents, but Arizona's bald eagles can give us baby eagles. (Arizona Game & Fish Photo)

(Arizona Game & Fish Photo)

PHOENIX — Arizona’s bald eagles don’t need gifts from Santa Claus. But Arizona’s Game and Fish Department gave these American icons the gift of privacy this holiday season.

The department will temporarily close certain portions of public land and water areas to give the birds a chance to repopulate in their critical breeding areas.

“Arizona’s bald eagles are hard at work preparing their nest for what we hope will be a productive breeding season,” AGFD Bald Eagle Management Coordinator Kenneth Jacobson said in a statement.

There are 97 eagle breeding sites in Arizona, according to AGFD’s Tuesday announcement. Many of those are near Verde River, which is why AGFD is closing foot and vehicle entry through the Chasm Creek and Needle Rock Recreation areas from Dec. 1 to June 30. Verde River upstream of the East Verde confluence will also be closed to visitors by foot or vehicle through June 30.

Visitors can use watercrafts to float through Verde River near Cold Water Creek and Mule Shoe Bend, but you can’t stop on the river or land.

“The birds nest, forage and roost at rivers and lakes that are also popular recreation spots,” Jacobson said. “That’s why we must be vigilant to help protect the birds and ensure their populations statewide continue to flourish. That success wouldn’t be possible without the cooperation of outdoor recreationists who respect the closures during the breeding season.”

Further restrictions are in place near Tonto Creek and Salt River.

What areas should Arizona outdoor enthusiasts avoid?

Two stretches of Tonto Creek will be closed. Whether you plan to travel by foot or vehicle, you can’t go within 1,000 feet of the nest on land. You also can’t get within 300 feet of the nest by water through June 30.

Another potential closure is up in the air. Currently, Tonto Creek from Gisela to 76 Ranch isn’t planned to be closed to traffic. However, this area may close if the local eagles resume nesting within the closure area.

Call 928-467-3200 ahead of time to stay up-to-date on the eagle activity in the area. It may impact your outdoor adventures.

Planning to visit Salt River from now through June 30?

Watercrafts can flow through Salt River from Horseshow Bend to Redmond Flat, but you can’t stop in the river or land.

However, floating is allowed if traveling to Salt River below Stewart Mountain Dam or below Goldfield-Kerr Fire Station. Just note that vehicle and foot entry are forbidden in those three areas.

Arizona adventurers planning to visit Salt River near Meddler Point should know it’s closed to vehicle and foot entry within 1,000 feet of the eagle nest. Those traveling by watercraft can’t get closer than 300 feet.

Other closures that will help Arizona’s bald eagles

Many of the Copper State’s lakes will go through limited closures from now through the end of June, such as:

  • Crescent Lake
  • Fool Hollow Lake
  • Greer Lakes
  • Horseshoe Lake
  • Lake Pleasant
  • Luna Lake
  • Lynx Lake
  • Show Low Lake
  • Woods Canyon Lake

The exact details explaining which parts of each lake are closed can be found on AGFD’s website.

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New closures will help Arizona’s bald eagles repopulate this holiday season