The diverse ecosystems of the Rim Country provide the opportunity to view a surprising number of birds.
You only have to go as far as Payson’s Green Valley Park and the Payson Golf Course for bird watching in town. Venture out to various vantage points along the East Verde River or down around Roosevelt Lake and see how many different birds you can spot.
One of the local clubs in town called the Payson Birders has helped identify a list of birding areas in the Rim Country.
Green Valley Park
Along Lake Drive to the ponds behind the golf course; American Gulch, behind West Main Street is still a good spot in places.
Doll Baby Ranch Road
This area is the west stretch of Country Club that runs along the south side of Green Valley Park and the Payson Golf Course. It is paved just a short way, then becomes dirt and on the rough side, but provides a place to glimpse more of the Rim Country’s feathered residents and visitors.
About four miles north of Payson, take the dirt road toward Flowing Springs and drive to the fenced Forest Service parking and camping area. This area is along the East Verde River.
Located off the Houston Mesa Road. There is a trail and many jeep roads in the area. Nice mix of grassland, juniper, and some chaparral. Generally, fairly level hiking.
Located north of the Control Road. Various species of woodpeckers can be seen in the parking area and at the end of the road. Winter Wren are often seen along the creek.
Woods Canyon Lake
This trail is located off of Highway 260, 32 miles east of Payson. Turn left on Rim Road 300 and go northwest 3.4 miles to Woods Canyon Lake Road, 105. Turn right and go east to Rocky Point Picnic Area. The 4.5-mile loop trail around Alpine Lake is an easy walk on dirt and rock path through shady forest.
See Canyon Trailhead
Located east of Payson, off Highway 260. Take Forest Road 284 to the end. There are several trails along the creek, good riparian habitat, and mixed conifer forest.
Willow Springs Lake
This area offers another pleasant forest walk on a dirt and rock fisherman’s trail. Go east on Highway 260, approximately 34 miles, turn left and go one mile north on Willow Springs Lake Road, 149 to the parking area.
Deer Creek Trailhead
Located 17 miles south of Payson on highway 87. There are three trails out of this area and all are beautiful, however the third trail, No. 48, consistently has some of the best birding in the area, good riparian bordered by semi-desert grassland, and chaparral. Black throated sparrow, lazuli bunting, cactus wren, all three species of oriole, and many others.
A little beyond the Rim County, relatively nearby spot, is the Boyce Thompson Arboretum located southwest of Globe on Highway 60. It is consistently good birding with lush gardens, ponds, and a flowing creek that attracts many area and migrating bird species.
The Tonto National Forest’s Payson Ranger Station has a couple of hand resources for birders. One is “Birds of the Tonto National Forest; A Checklist”, a brochure listing information on the more than 300 species of birds that visit or live within the national forest. The Rim Country and the Roosevelt Lake area are only part of the Tonto National Forest (some of the Rim is also in the Coconino and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests), so not all the birds in the listings can be found at these higher elevations.
The publication includes a map indicating the prevalent habitats where the birds will most likely be seen. It also indicates which birds are permanent residents, seasonal visitors, migratory, and accidental and whether it is common, uncommon or rare to see the different birds.
The publication is free at the Payson Ranger Station. The Ranger station also has a number of field guides and other books available.
For more information please contact Grace Knowles