Reach 11 Recreation Area
Phoenix, Arizona


The principal reason that Reach 11 exists is for flood control. Water flowing down from Cave Creek and some smaller drainages is captured behind an earthen dam that parallels the north side of the Central Arizona Project Canal for some 11 km (7 miles). This dam keeps flood waters out of the canal and out of housing developments to the south. A kilometer-wide strip of floodable desert running the length of this dam is called Reach 11 - a Phoenix Parks and Recreation Area. Numerous hiking, biking and equestrian trails crisscross this area.

Silt and sand carried down by the force of flood waters has already accumulated behind the dam and in some spots there is a significant accumulation of ground water that supports mesquite bosques and even a few cottonwood trees. Blue Palo Verde, Desert Hackberry, Gray Thorn, Ironwood and Salt Bush species have grown very well in this habitat often produce abundant crops of seed. Birds and mammals are likewise abundant making this area attractive to both wildlife and wildlife watchers. Wintering sparrows can be quite abundant and there are many coyotes. After heavy rain there are ponds that can take weeks or months to dry up.

Eventually this area will become less favorable for more and more plants as the evaporating water leaves salts ... salt tolerant plants will predominate. Already there are crusts of white salt in the lowest lying areas.

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Walking trail through Reach 11 Park, Phoenix, Arizona

Trails are level and easy to follow through stands of mesquite and blue palo verde.

Adapted from Phoenix Parks & Rec. Map.

Field Trip Report: Oct. 15, 2005

Numerous birds were feasting on the bumper crop of bright orange fruit of the Desert Hackberry (Celtis ehrenbergiana) ... dark green leaves and exceptionally large plants give evidence of the nutrient-rich run-off that floods this area after storms. I found some hackberry trees with more than a dozen Northern Mockingbirds in them. Also present and eating berries were White-crowned Sparrows, Phainopepla, Gila Woodpeckers, House Finches and Curve-billed Thrashers.

Desert Broom were just coming into bloom and were attracting many butterflies, mostly queens and painted ladies, and an abundance of bees, wasps, and flower flies.

Alkali Goldenbush (Isocoma acradenia) was also blooming brightly.


Additional observations submitted by Mel Herring. Common species listed first:

  1. Northern Mockingbird -- S,F,W,Sp
  2. Anna's Hummingbird -- S,F,W,SpGreen back; forehead and throat of males magenta.
  3. Verdin -- Auriparus flaviceps -- S,F,W,Sp Tiny birds, barely larger than a hummingbird. Gray/brown with a majestic yellow head
  4. Abert's Towhee S,F,W,Sp--
  5. Cactus Wren S,F,W,Sp--
  6. Mourning Dove -- Zenaida macroura -- S,F,W,Sp--
  7. Gambel's Quail -- Callipepla gambelii -- S,F,W,Sp
  8. Inca Dove -- Columbina inca -- S,F,W,Sp -
  9. White-crowned Sparrow -- Zonotrichia leucophrys -- W,Sp-- look for these during winter and early spring.
  10. Gila Woodpecker -- Melanerpes uropygialis -- S,F,W,Sp
  11. Say's Phoebe -- Sayornis saya -- S,F,W,Sp - can be found all year, but more so during the winter months
  12. House Finch -- Carpodacus mexicanus -- S,F,W,Sp--
  13. Curve-billed Thrasher -- Toxostoma curvirostre -- S,F,W,Sp--
  14. Black-throated Sparrow -- Amphispiza bilineata -- S,F,W,SpLovely birds with a jet-black throat and bib contrasted by bright white eye brows. Beautiful singers. A very nice description of the black-throated sparrow can be found at Twentynine Palms Cyberzine (California).
  15. Red-tailed Hawk -- Buteo jamaicensis -- S,F,W,Sp
  16. Great-horned Owl -- Bubo virginianus -- S,F,W,Sp
  17. Northern Cardinal -- Cardinalis cardinalis -- S,F,W,Sp--
  18. Black Phoebe -- Sayornis nigricans -- S,F,W,Sp - rarely strays far from water's edge
  19. Brown-headed Cowbird -- Molothrus ater -- Sp, S
  20. Turkey Vulture -- F,Sp
  21. Ladder-backed Woodpecker -- S,F,W,Sp -
  22. Greater Roadrunner -- Geococcyx californianus -- S,F,W,Sp -
  23. American Kestrel S,F,W,Sp--
  24. Northern Harrier F,W--
  25. Killdeer -- Charadrius vociferus -- S,F,W,Sp
  26. Lesser Goldfinch -- S,F,W,Sp
  27. Wilson's Warbler -- Sp,F
  28. McGillavry's Warbler -- Sp,F
  29. Western Kingbird -- Sp,F
  30. Northern Flicker -- Sp,F
  31. Townsend's Warbler -- Sp,F
  32. Horned Lark -- W
  33. Bullock's Oriole -- Sp,F
  34. Warbling Vireo -- Sp,F
Northern Mockingbird photo © Mike Plagens

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos). Photo by Mike Plagens.

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Great-horned owl at Reach 11 Park, Phoenix, Arizona, photo © Mike Plagens

Great-horned Owl will surely see and hear you from her secluded perch.

photo © Mike Plagens
Audubon's Cottontail
(Sylvilagus auduboni) -
Photo by Mike Plagens.


In order of Abundance:

  1. Desert Cottontail -- Common.
  2. Coyote -- These animals often hunt for rodents, rabbits and stray cats and forage for fruit in the surrounding neighborhoods.


Cacti are decidely uncommon at Reach 11 because they can withstand only brief periods of innundation. In addition the fine clay and silt soils do not drain well after rainfall leaving the root systems vulnerable to rots.
  1. Buckhorn Cholla (Opuntia acanthocarpa) --
  2. Compass Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus acanthodes) -- Spines tinged with red and yellow.
  3. Saguaro Cactus (Cereus giganteus) -- I found only a few along the far north boundary.
  4. Cane Cholla (Cylindropuntia spinosior) -- just east of Tatum there's two large old specimens 2 to 3 m tall.

photo © Mike Plagens
Compass Barrel Cactus
(Ferrocactus acanthodes) -
Photo by Mike Plagens.

Shrubs and Trees

In general order of Abundance:

  1. Velvet Mesquite -- Prosopis velutina --
  2. Blue Palo Verde (Parkinsonia florida) --
  3. Mexican Palo Verde (Parkinsonia aculeata) --
  4. Graythorn (Zizyphus obtusifolia) -- these densely thorned shrubs are a favoite location for birds' nests
  5. Allscale -- Atriplex polycarpa --
  6. Four-winged Saltbush -- Atriplex canescens --
  7. Quailbush (Atriplex lentiformis) --
  8. Tamarisk (Tamarix pentandra) --
  9. Desert Broom (Baccharis sarothroides) -
  10. Desert Hackberry (Celtis pallida)
  11. Wolfberry (Lycium sp.) -- edible red berries
  12. Alkali Goldenbush (Isocoma acradenius) --
  13. Canyon Ragweed (Ambrosia ambrosioides) --
  14. Milkweed Vine (Sarcostemma cynanchoides) --
  15. Desert Senna (Senna covesiisp.) --
  16. Ironwood (Olneya tesota) --
  17. Triangle-leaf Bursage (Ambrosia deltoidea) -- find a few along northern boundary - away from flooding
  18. Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata) -- dark evergreen shrub with shiny, resinous leaves and dark wirey twigs.
  19. Foothills Palo Verde (Cercidium microphyllum) -- along north boundary
  20. Brittle Bush (Encelia farinosa) -- not common here. Leaves are silvery green and flowers are bright yellow.
  21. Desert Mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum) - Parasitic shrub growing upon various desert trees including Palo Verde and Ironwood.
  22. Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) - Bares peach colored blooms after periods of rain otherwise it is difficult to find

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tamarisk flowers photo © Mike Plagens

Tamarisk is an exotic invasive that can become abundant to the point of excluding native trees and shrubs. Sometimes known as 'salt cedar' because of the scale-like leaves; the presence of flowers means for sure it is not a conifer!

Celtis pallida berries photo © by Michael Plagens

An abundance of desert hackberries at Reach 11 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Wildflower Seasonal Chart

  Month Name Only : no flowers. no live plants.
   : usually no or very few blooms open
   : a few scattered blooms likely to be seen
   : quite a few blooms likely to be seen, depending on past rainfall
   : abundant blooms dependent on favorable rainfall

Common Name Scientific name Color Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Filaree Erodium cicutarium Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
Orange Fiddleneck Amsinckia intermedia Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Arch-nutted Comb Bur Pectocarya recurvata Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
Triangle-leaf Bursage Ambrosia deltoidea
Torrey Eucrypta Eucrypta chrysanthemifolia Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
London Rocket (weed) Sisymbrium irio Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Meditteranean Grass Schismus barbatus Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Brittle Bush Encelia farinosa
Desert Mistletoe Phoradendron californicum
Creosote Bush Larrea tridentata
Wooly Tidestroma Tidestroma lanuginosa Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Dec
Unicorn Plant Proboscidea parviflora Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Dec
Desert Broom Baccharis sarothroides
Alkali Goldenbush Isocoma acrademia
Tamarisk Tamarix pentandra
^ Common Name ^ Scientific name Flower Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2011, updated 7 Feb. 2016