Arizonensis --> Sonoran Desert Naturalist --> Sonoran Desert Places --> Buckeye Hills

Buckeye Hills Recreation Area, Maricopa County, Arizona


1,810 hectares of mostly undisturbed Upland and Colorado Sonoran Desert habitat is preserved at this regional county park. For now there is little development and there are no developed trails or piped water facilities. The result is that the area is relatively quiet and isolated. If there have been months without rain the naturalist will find that the habitat is rather barren and wildlife scarce. The southern tier of the park includes low hills rising to about 480 meters elevation. The terrain to the north and west falls towards the Gila River and so is increasingly sandy and alkaline and as a result the flora changes perceptibly. The north boundary of the park adjoins the Robbins Butte Wildlife Management Area, a large flood plain adjacent to the Gila River.

There is a primitive camping area, a shooting range, and a few picnic areas. The Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department is finalizing construction of a new public shooting range that will be adjacent to the new law enforcement range. Construction is scheduled for completion around the end of January 2008; however, discussions are on-going for contractual management and operation of the range. Will this detract from the peaceful experience now available? Maybe they will include sound barriers to keep noise pollution down. Additional park information is available at the Maricopa Co. Web Page.

Area Map on Google

View Larger Map - Buckeye Hills is indicated by the green tent symbol.

Directions: From the Phoenix area drive west on I-10, then exit south (car symbol) on SR-85. The road into the Maricopa County Park is clearly marked on west side of highway. Take paved road into picnic and camp areas.


This list is based on just one field trip (Jan 14, 2008):

  1. White-crowned Sparrow -- F,W,Sp -- a winter visitor from the north. Feeds on seeds, berries and sprouting seeds.
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  1. Kit Fox

Reptiles and Amphibians

  1. Side-blotched Lizard -- active even in January
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When temperatures are cool side-blotched lizards will emerge and bask in the sunshine. Notice the dark splotch on the flank immediately behind the first pair of legs.

Shrubs and Trees

  1. Creosote Bush -- Larrea tridentata
  2. Foothills Palo Verde; Yellow Palo Verde -- Parkinsonia microphylla
  3. Wolfberry (Lycium spp.)
  4. Saguaro Cactus -- Carnegiea gigantea
  5. Desert Ironwood -- Olneya tesota
  6. Buckhorn Cholla -- Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa -- other chollas scarce
  7. White Ratany -- Krameria grayi
  8. White Bursage -- Ambrosia dumosa -- by far the most abundant bursage
  9. Ocotillo;Coachwhip -- Fouquieria splendens --
  10. Brittlebush -- Encelia farinosa
  11. Graham's Pincushion Cactus -- Mammillaria grahamii
  12. Fishhook Barrel Cactus -- Ferocactus wislizenii -- a few ancient specimens
  13. Lance-leaf Ditaxis -- Argythamnia lanceolata
  14. Bigelow's Four O'Clock; Desert Wishbone Bush -- Mirabilis laevis -- under partial shade
  15. New Mexico Silverbush -- Argythamnia neomexicana -- several seen near summits of hills
  16. Engelmann Hedgehog Cactus -- Echinocereus engelmannii -- very scarce
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White Bursage has whitish stems and leaves. A Sharp taragon-like aroma issues from crushed foliage.

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