Thirty miles long and encompassing 25,625 acres, the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1941 to protect and preserve all forms of plant and animal life found in the lower Colorado River region. Originally consisting of 46,793 acres, the refuge was reduced to its present size by boundary changes and land swaps. Situated in both Arizona and California, the refuge protects desert and lower Colorado River environments. In 1990, the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act set aside 9,220 acres of the refuge as the Imperial Refuge Wilderness. The Colorado River, the boundary between California and Arizona, is the feature attraction of the refuge.
The wilderness area is a skinny corridor of some 10,000 riparian and upland acres running parallel to the refuge. Receiving an average of only 3.2 inches of rain annually and extremely hot in summer, the arid, low-elevation Sonoran Desert upland in southwestern Arizona is in sharp contrast to the lush river system. Between the river and the desert is a transition zone of shallow sloughs and lakes that supports diverse plants and animals. With plenty of vegetative cover, these areas provide food, escape, thermal protection, and nesting sites for wildlife. This trail guide covers an area that has no maintained trails.
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