Sights in Southern Arizona: Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area

Levi and I are both photography nerds. We have several cameras, a lot of lenses, and a variety of other camera-related accessories.

However, after 15 or so years of taking photos in Indiana, we were bored and uninspired with our surroundings. We stopped using the cameras as much as we once had, and our equipment got outdated.

We’ve saved a lot of money living in an RV, so after some research and money-saving procrastination, we purchased a Nikon D500. And since we moved to Tucson, we’re excited about photography again.

In searching for places to see the sights in southern Arizona and use our new camera, Levi found Whitewater Draw. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, and the drive to it from Tucson is beautiful.

A primitive road leads out to Whitewater Draw, which really sucks if you’re in a tiny car with a short wheelbase. What’s at the end of the primitive road is worth the beating you take to get there, though.

woman walking on dirt path with mountains in the background
A dirt path leads visitors around the various ponds at Whitewater Draw

From October through the end of February, Whitewater Draw is the winter home of thousands of Sandhill Cranes. We had seen cranes in Michigan and Indiana, but never in the numbers we saw them at this place.

If you’ve never seen a Sandhill Crane, you’d probably be stunned by their size. You’d also be surprised by how graceful they are in flight. And delighted by how silly and engaging they are. They make a lot of noise, fight with each other, and drink water by tilting their heads back and letting it run down their long necks.

sandhill cranes drinking

When we arrived, there were several hundred cranes. But by noon, thousands and thousands of them started dropping from the sky. We thought they’d never stop coming, and they continued to come as we trekked back to the car for our picnic lunch.

It was one of the most amazing things we’ve ever seen, and no explanation I can give here will ever do it justice.

see the sights in southern Arizona: thousands of sandhill cranes arriving at whitewater draw
See the sights in southern Arizona: Thousands of cranes arriving at Whitewater Draw

In addition to the cranes, there were a variety of songbirds, hawks, ducks, and other waterfowl to enjoy. And if you get there early or stay late enough, there’s deer, javelina, and a variety of other animals to see as well.


How to Get to Whitewater Draw

Whitewater Draw welcomes boondocking (dry camping), and you can stay for up to three days. It’s convenient to Tombstone and Bisbee, and we highly recommend it if you enjoy nature and conservation as much as we do.