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Kofa National Wildlife Refuge

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge is a 660,000-acre protected area in southwest Arizona in Yuma and La Paz Counties.  The name Kofa is a shortening of King of Arizona, a former gold mine.  In 1936, the boy scouts led a statewide effort to protect habitat and save the endangered desert bighorn sheep.  The refuge opened on April 2, 1939 as Kofa Game Land, managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Fish & Wildlife Service.  In 1976, it was renamed Kofa National Wildlife Refuge and authority transferred to the Fish & Wildlife Service.  Today, the refuge protects a vast area of desert wilderness, including the Kofa and Castle Dome Mountains.  More than 80% of the refuge is designated wilderness.  Numerous rough gravel roads traverse the refuge allowing for exploration and primitive camping is allowed.



There's only one short trail in the refuge in Palm Canyon.  However, you can hike just about anywhere and there are a number of 4X4 roads to explore the refuge.

Palm Canyon Trail:

Palm Canyon Trail is a half-mile National Recreation Trail that leads into Palm Canyon.  The trailhead is at the eastern end of Palm Canyon Road, about 7 miles east of US-95.  The trail ends at a spot where you can see the California fan palms high up in a side canyon.  There's no easy way to get up this side canyon.  You can also continue up the main canyon for a ways though the going can get rough at times.


Kofa National Wildlife Refuge is located in the Sonoran Desert, but despite the harsh conditions, a number of plants and animals can be found.

The massive saguaro cacti (Carnegiea gigantea) are ubiquitous in the Sonoran desert landscape.

Beavertail cactus (Opuntia basilaris) is a species of prickly pear with flattened pads that produces showy purple flowers.

Teddy bear cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii) are named for their fuzzy appearance, but their sharp spines are anything but cuddly.

Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) is not a cactus, but has thorny branches and appears cactus-like.  It produces beautiful red flowers at the ends of its spiny branches.

California fan palm (Washingtonia filifera) is the only native palm to Arizona and Palm Canyon in the refuge is one of the few places it grows in the state.

Desert wishbone (Mirabilis laevis) is a bush that has white flowers.

White tackstem (Calycoseris wrightii)

Desert tobacco (Nicotiana obtusifolia)

Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) is a desert shrub with yellow flowers.  Native Americans found a variety of uses for it, including as medicine and to make glue.

Hummingbird bush (Justicia californica) produces tube-like red flowers that attract hummingbirds.

Desert penstemon (Penstemon pseudospectabilis)

Scorpionweed has pretty blue flowers.  Look but don't touch as the little hairs on the plant can cause skin irritation similar to poison ivy.

Bladder sage (Scutellaria mexicana)

Coutler's lupine (Lupinus sparsiflorus)

Western whiptail lizards (Aspidoscelis tigris) are commonly found in the refuge.

Blog Entries:

15-Apr-2019: Desert Blooms

External Links:

US Fish & Wildlife Service website: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/kofa/