skip to the content of this page Arizona's Official Website Arizona Department of Water Resources
Arizona Department of Water Resources Arizona's Official Web Site
Securing Arizona's Water Future

Environmental Conditions of the Upper Colorado River Planning Area - Protected Public Lands and Unique Waters

Discussed in this section is vegetation, riparian protection through the Arizona Water Protection Fund Program, instream flow claims, threatened and endangered species, protected public lands and unique waters.

Recreation Areas, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness Areas

The Upper Colorado River Planning Area contains most of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area (NRA), two national wildlife refuges (NWR) and 11 wilderness areas administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  The southwestern portion of Grand Canyon National Park is located along the Meadview-Peach Springs basin boundary. These protected areas are shown in Figure 4.0-12.

A significant portion of the Lake Mead NRA, created in 1964 and administered by the National Park Service, is located in the northwestern portion of the planning area.  The NRA stretches from Davis Dam at Bullhead City in the Lake Mohave Basin to the western boundary of Grand Canyon National Park in Meadview Basin and includes Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, the Colorado River and adjacent areas.  NRA lands also are located in Detrital Valley and Hualapai Valley Basins.

Figure 4.0-12 Upper Colorado River Planning Area Protected Areas

Click to view Figure 4.0-12

Bill Williams NWR

Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge.

The two national wildlife refuges in the planning area are the Havasu NWR in the Lake Havasu Basin and the Bill Williams River NWR in the Bill Williams Basin.  The Havasu NWR, managed by the USFWS, was established in 1941 at the time of construction of Parker Dam as a refuge for migratory birds and other wildlife. The refuge protects 30 river miles of the Colorado River from Needles, CA to Lake Havasu City and contains one of the last remaining natural stretches of the lower Colorado River through the 20-mile long Topock Gorge. A portion of the refuge in Arizona is designated as the Needles Peak Wilderness.  The Bill Williams River NWR, located along the Bill Williams River at its confluence with Lake Havasu, includes lands originally set aside as Havasu NWR and additional lands purchased by USFWS since then.  The refuge protects one of the last stands of natural cottonwood-willow habitat along the lower Colorado River (USFWS, 2002).  The refuge provides habitat for at least two endangered species, the Yuma clapper rail and the southwestern willow flycatcher (NEMO, 2005). 

Not shown on Figure 4.0-12, Alamo Wildlife Area, managed by Arizona Game and Fish, is located at the confluence of the Big Sandy, Santa Maria, and Bill Williams Rivers.  The area includes lands withdrawn and acquired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for Alamo Lake at the time of construction of Alamo Dam in 1968.  Arizona State Parks manages Alamo Lake State Park on the south shore of Alamo Lake.

The Bill Williams River Corridor Steering Committee coordinates activities related to the operation of Alamo Dam and management of resources from Alamo Lake downstream along the Bill Williams River to Lake Havasu.  In general, water is released in a manner that mimics natural flooding to promote establishment of native riparian woodland vegetation, including cottonwood and willow, and to ensure sufficient baseflow to support riparian vegetation between Alamo Dam and Lake Havasu.

A prominent feature of the planning area is the large number of wilderness areas administered by the Bureau of Land Management.  These areas are designated under the 1964 Wilderness Act to preserve and protect the designated area in its natural condition.  Designated areas, their size, basin location and a brief description are listed in Table 4.0-3  Wilderness areas represent about 6% of the total planning area lands and almost 12% of the lands within the Bill Williams Basin.

Unique Waters

Several “unique waters”, designated by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) pursuant to A.A.C. R18-11-112, as having exceptional recreational or ecological significance and/or providing habitat for threatened or endangered species, have been identified in the planning area.  Designated unique waters include sections of Peoples Canyon, Francis Creek and Burro Creek in the Bill Williams Basin.


water drop Click here to continue to the Next Section: 4.0.5 Population  



Arizona Water Atlas Home

Upper Colorado River Planning Area Home

Download pdf of entire Upper Colorado River Planning Area Download pdf of the Upper Colorado River Planning Area Overview References and Suggested Reading for the Upper Colorado River Planning Area
Colorado River Upper Colorado River Planning Area

Download pdf of Volume 4

Bill Williams River Detrital Valley Basin