Whitewater Draw Wildlife Preserve is owned and operated by the Arizona Department of Fish and Game. It is located just south of McNeal, Arizona and about 20 miles north of Douglas, Arizona. It is accessible for a primitive dirt road which means you might get a bit dusty and dirty (or muddy) on your way in and out.
The wildlife preserve has a variety of wildlife but it is best known for the wintering of the Sandhill Cranes. Approximately 2/3rds of Arizona’s wintering Sandhill Cranes roost at Whitewater. If you are a bird lover then this is a must, if just for the noise alone!
Campground: Whitewater Draw Wildlife Preserve
Location: McNeal, Arizona
Services: dry camping
Comments: The area provides a vault toilet and dumpster and has approximately 4 campsites which are free to use for up to 3 nights. Just be aware of which way the wind is blowing as the campsites are so close to the vault toilet that you may be in for a surprise. The wind shifted while we were there so we ended up moving shortly after arrival and things were then perfect.
The Sandhill Cranes are most active before sunrise and just before and during sunset. The numbers of cranes roosting in the area are said to be somewhere near 20,000. We visited at the end of October which is just the very start of the wintering roosting and the numbers seemed much lower but the cranes still put on quite a show for us. The sounds and noise from the cranes has to be experienced to really be appreciated.
The preserve has several trails and areas to walk around and observe the birds and quite a few park benches to stop at and relax. We did encounter quite a number of mosquitoes at sunset. Be prepared.