Monday, January 11, 2021

1/11 Willow Beach Campground Critters

When I was here in late October, I was able to take a lot of photos of bighorn sheep.  I am here for a week, and no sheep, but lots of desert cottontails and Gambel's quail.  In the past, I have had trouble photographing the quail specifically, but now I come prepared.  

It has been cool or even cold, but sunny every day, and I have been relaxing because the new semester has just started with no papers to grade until tomorrow.  Willow Beach is part of the Lake Mead Recreation Area and is located 13 miles downriver, along what is known as the Black Canyon of the Colorado.  It is accessible by road only here and at one place about a half-mile down from the dam.  Otherwise, you have to hike in, but you can get someone to drop you off at the launch area near the dam and kayak here.  You can also rent a boat at the Willow Beach Marina and motor up to the launch area near the dam. 

I love this campground because it has cement pads with asphalt drives, making it clean and no dust, as you get in many campgrounds in the desert.  Anyway, here are some photos of this lovely campground.  Note that it is mostly empty because the weekenders have left:

If you look past my motorhome up onto the hill in the distance, you can see the ranger's homes.  Everything here is relatively new because this area had a huge flash flood way back in 1974 where 9 people died.  The area, including a huge national park campground, flooded because the campground and facilities at that time were built in a canyon which was prone to flooding. Here is an article about that flood and the new facilities that opened in 2009.
And actually, it was rebuilt in 2009 in a similar canyon, so it still prone to flooding.  The campground is a lot smaller, however, but there is a new fisheries building, new marina and visitor center, and a new campground.  In fact, it still floods and shuts down the road into here about every couple of years, in spite of some impressive flood controls.  Here is one from 2017, but it also flooded last May.  Since the campground and ranger's homes are up on a hill, generally all it does it shut the road down for a few days.  They keep a bulldozer and front-end loader here just in case. 

This is a very dry area, getting at most 5" of rain per year, but do you notice the white rings around all of the bushes?  This is because they have all been planted and each one has a drip irrigation tube keeping it alive.  Over time, the minerals in the water leach out onto the ground.  Also, the round bushes are actually grasses that have been cut back for the winter.  They will be tall and lush soon.  
The watering is mostly done in the morning, and you can see the amount of water theses grasses at the edge of my campsite get.  

The important thing is that each one of these irrigated bushes provides shelter and food for desert cottontails.  Mostly, they come out at dusk, but will come out earlier if you toss out a few pieces of carrot and apple.  Here is one of the cute little guys.  He had better eat fast because his relatives will be out soon. 


Yup, here they are.  I gave them only small pieces of carrots and apples, but it did not take long to get over a dozen bunnies hopping around.   They are smaller than the bunnies we get in yards in more northern areas. 

The other animals that are common in this campground are the Gambel's quail.  They can fly, but mostly, they run around on the ground in groups of from 10-30 or so.  And the funniest thing is how they constantly cheep to one another and run around always making sure they are with the group.  They look like their legs are on wheels.  The males have slightly taller topknots, but they all are very fast and hard to photograph.  

Mostly, they live on seeds that fall from desert plants.

However, I confess to using my secret weapon this morning before I knew they would come scurrying around--birdseed!  It slows them down mostly.  Otherwise, all I get are blurry birds. I spread it around several empty campsites!  The little birds also enjoying the seed are some sort of sparrows. 

When they cross the road, you can tell they are nervous, so they stand up tall and run even faster, if that is possible.  The bird in front is a female and the one in the back is a male with more coloring and a taller topknot.
 All the birds and bunnies are gone because the food is gone, but I keep an eye on this hill in front of me because if the bighorn sheep come, that is where they often hang out.  None this week, however.

Will get more campers in the next couple of days.  I am only here for two more days, so am enjoying the scenery. 


  1. Every time you go there I tell myself that we need to go there. But when we're home in summer it is probably packed. Sure looks nice. You are going to have a couple of warmer days it looks like. Stay safe and enjoy.

  2. You can make reservations, and if not, just drive up here for a day to take a look.