Partnering to Enhance a Gem in the Desert

Hassayampa Slideshow

Hassayampa River Preserve at Vulture Mountains Recreation Area

“Our Hassayampa River Preserve will serve as a gateway to a much larger natural recreation area.”

- Patrick Graham, The Nature Conservancy in Arizona’s State Director

After more than a quarter of a century as a Nature Conservancy preserve, the Hassayampa River Preserve is about to start a new chapter. Starting in January, 2017, the preserve will have a new partner and part owner: Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department. 

To help facilitate the transition, the preserve will be closed to the public on December 23, 2016 and re-open again on January 4, 2017. 

The Conservancy is transferring ownership of approximately 77 acres, which encompass the Visitor Center and Palm Lake, to Maricopa County. The County will lease most of the remaining 700-plus acres. The Conservancy will continue its involvement at the preserve through a conservation agreement with the County. 

“The Nature Conservancy will continue to be involved in protecting this preserve’s amazing natural values,” says Patrick Graham, the Conservancy’s state director. “By working together with the County, we can offer so much more to the nature-loving public.” 

The Conservancy purchased the preserve near Wickenburg in 1986 because of its unique ecological features, the main one being the Hassayampa River, which flows underground for around 100 miles before surfacing at the preserve. 

Ultimately, Hassayampa will serve as the gateway to the Bureau of Land Management’s 71,000-acre Vulture Mountains Recreation Area, which is west and south of the preserve. In the future that recreation area will be cooperatively managed by Maricopa County and the BLM. 

“Our team has been working closely with Nature Conservancy staff for the past year to ensure that we have an in-depth understanding of the preserve’s ecosystem, and a clear understanding of the experience preferences of preserve visitors. We are looking forward to a smooth transition as we begin overseeing the daily operations and management of the preserve, and believe we can continue to enhance both the environment and visitor experience,” says R.J. Cardin, Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department director.