Watchable Wildlife at River Island State Park
Wildlife viewing opportunities are possible within the park which may seem surprising to unsuspecting visitors! Arizona’s deserts provide healthy, unique habitats for a variety of birds and animals in an extremely arid setting. The wildlife that abounds here is specially designed to thrive within such a harsh environment. Bighorn sheep, desert mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, and a variety of smaller mammals and reptiles can be experienced in and around this gorgeous little park on the Colorado River. Learn where to view Arizona's diverse wildlife species throughout your state park system on the Arizona Wildlife page.
Desert Bighorn Sheep
Desert bighorn sheep are an Arizona Staple along the Colorado River, and supply wildlife viewing opportunities for park visitors on occasion. Especially adapted for life in the harsh deserts, their body temperature can safely fluctuate several degrees without an adverse effect on their overall health. During mod-day, especially during the heat of summer months, desert bighorns can be seen around the park resting in any available shade. For optimal viewing opportunities, it is suggested that visitors bring a pair of binoculars to scan the surrounding mountains for sheep activity.
An interesting note is that both ram (male) and ewe (female) desert bighorn sheep have horns. The horns of the rams get much larger as they age and are used in breeding rituals when fighting with other rams over the affection of a ewe ready to breed. The loud horn clashes can be heard from a surprising distance!
Coyotes are the quintessential desert dweller. Their ability to thrive in the harshest of environments is a testament to their will to survive, and ensures their range is widespread and generally healthy. Coyotes can be seen with regularity in and around the park although their typically nocturnal habits make daytime sightings rarer. Believe it or not, the desert ecosystems hold a large variety of prey species for the opportunistic coyotes. Small rodents, birds, reptiles, and even road kill are all on the menu.
To increase the likelihood of an encounter, look for coyotes at sunrise and sunset periods of the day. Their prey species are active at this time and you might just catch them out hunting. Coyotes typically avoid human encounters but please remember that these are in fact wild animals. Visitors are urged to keep a safe distance between themselves and any wildlife confronted while in the park.
Birds and Waterfowl
Seasonally the bird population is inundated with wintering birds and waterfowl that either spend their winter in the park or are stopping by on their long journey’s. Park visitors are lucky to have the Colorado River nearby to increase the chance of seeing cool waterfowl and shorebird species. As with viewing other wildlife, a pair of binoculars greatly increases your chances of seeing birds, or to help identify those that you have found.
Keep watch for birds in the vegetation around the park, on the shoreline, and in the water itself. Waterfowl species tend to congregate on the water throughout the winter months before beginning their journey north again. Pay special attention to the variety of calls made by the waterfowl species that frequent this park. Quacks, whistles, and clicks are all emitted by varying species and can greatly enhance your experience as well as help visitors identify particular species.