February 25, 2015 Patagonia Lake State Park, Arizona

Patagonia Lake State Park
Patagonia Lake State Park

A Reluctant Return to Civilization

After four months of constant boon docking in the wide open spaces in the desert, I packed up camp around 10 AM and headed east to Patagonia Lake State Park, arriving at 1 PM and setting up on site #15 that, unfortunately, turned out to be nowhere near level, so much so that even with the hydraulic jacks, I remained uncomfortably leaning forward and tilting towards the lake.

Site #15 Patagonia Lake State Park
Site #15 Patagonia Lake State Park

If the site did not have electricity, I would have had to leave since there would have been no way I could run the frig on gas leaning this badly. The park really should identify defective sites such as this on their reservation website.

It really seems strange to have folks walking by right under your windows and vehicles passing within a few feet of your doorway after spending so much time boon docking. This is going to take some getting used to again as I see a lot more private and public campgrounds in my immediate future.

The campground seems relatively nice with water and 50 amp electricity, but the sites are way too close together and many are very uneven. The best thing I can say about the park is that they have a wonderful birding/hiking trail at the east end of the lake where one can get fairly close to a variety of water birds as well as those that like to inhabit the heavily forested shore of the lake.

Vermillion flycatcher
Vermillion flycatcher

This guy was found along the trail perched as usual, surveying his territory for breakfast on the wing. I spotted many small birds, warblers, kinglets, sparrows and more working the dense branches of the trees along the well travelled path through the woods and along the lake shore.

Mallards take off on Patagonia Lake
Mallards take off on Patagonia Lake

Walking along the heavily wood shore, you come across Cinammon teal, green and blue winged teal, mallards, northern pintails, gadwalls, rudy ducks, and more in the shallows near shore. With all the foot traffic on the trail, some of these ducks are quite approachable, others , not so much.

Desert waterfall
Desert waterfall

This certainly isn’t much as far as waterfalls go, probably about 3 feet high, but it seems odd to actually hear running water after months in the desert. This was taken while walking the trail along Sonoita Creek ( that feeds the lake ) on the northeast side of the park, while searching for, and never finding,  the elusive elegant trogon that inhabits this area. The walk along the creek, I probably followed it for a mile or so, is one of the ” birdiest” spots i have ever seen, but there were almost no birds to be seen or even heard on the two days I walked it. Must just be the timing, probably just a few weeks too early.

I took a drive north on Route 82 to the town of Patagonia and the Paton Center for Hummingbirds. This place is owned by the Tucson Audubon Society and is best known for sightings of the Violet Crowned hummingbird. There was no one there when I pulled in and very little in the way of birds either. It appeared a little run down and worse for wear, but that could be just the fact that it is still late winter here and everything is rather gray. There is a nice water feature here, that had no water, and many bird feeders scattered about the yard. I’ll have to return another time to see if there is any activity here.

Las Cienegas National Conservation Area

I continued north on 82 to check out the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area for boon docking campsites. There are two distinct camping areas here ( you can check out my Travel Maps link for more detail on this ), the Road Canyon site is a rather flat, nondescript pulloff area from the primary , newly reconstructed gravel road known as Yucca Road. There was just one camper there in a rather beatup, sketchy looking Casita trailer pulled by a really worn out pickup. Though there were suitable spots to camp here, the presence of only this one individual would discourage me from doing so.

The other spot is is known as Cienegas Camp best accessed off the east side of Route 83 by the Empire Ranch Road, a road that when I visited, was being newly paved. Going east about 3 miles on this road, you turn right on Yucca Road and look for a small sign on your right for this camping area. I drove in with the Prius and found 3 campers on the best of the maybe 5 sites available here. Very pretty grassland setting with lots of privacy. The two unoccupied site were possibly accessible with my rig but it would be tight, and I am not completely certain there is enough room to make a u-turn at the end of the drive in a big rig with a toad ( might be, but I couldn’t definitely say it could be done ). This small camping area had a very nice feel to it and I would definitely like to stay here if one of the nice sites happened to be open.

Thank you for shopping Amazon from my site!

When you click through to shop Amazon from here, I get a tiny commission, one that does not in any way impact what you pay, and all those tiny commissions eventually add up and that helps me keep this blog going !