88°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Railroad provides eagle’s eye view of canyon wildlife

Many Americans will never experience the thrill of seeing an eagle in the wild. But you needn’t be among those so deprived because these majestic birds gather every winter in Arizona’s Verde Canyon. And it’s easy to see them from the Verde Canyon Railroad, an agreeable experience in its own right.

Every year from December to May, golden and bald eagles winter in the mild climate there, nesting in century-old cottonwood trees and on the cliffs in Verde Canyon. Because the area is now protected as a breeding ground, the great birds are less wary of humans than they otherwise might be, and it’s possible to see them at reasonably close range.

Besides eagles, passengers have the chance of spotting other birds of prey, and much other iconic Western wildlife. Javelinas, antelope, mule deer, beavers, mountain lions and the endangered river otter all make homes in Verde Canyon. Amid the striking natural scenery of the Verde River’s riparian habitat, you will also see a couple of pueblo dwellings left by the prehistoric Sinagua people. The leisurely paced excursions take about four hours.

Pulling each train is an FP7 locomotive, a popular diesel engine first manufactured during the golden age of train travel in the 1940s. Passengers may book reservations in first-class cars with living-room seating, or in Pullman coach cars. Small groups may reserve the caboose. For a romantic ride, book for the Chocolate Lovers’ Valentine’s Celebration, which runs Feb. 11, 12 and 14. Book reservations or get further information at http://verdecanyonrr.com or 800-582-7245.

The restored railroad is a relic of a copper boom in the early 20th century, and its original purpose was transporting ore to a smelter at Perkinsville. Today the ghost town of Perkinsville marks one end of a 20-mile journey through the canyon.

Trains embark from Clarkdale, a planned community originally built to house workers and provide services for the mines at nearby Jerome. Clarkdale should be especially interesting to Las Vegans because it was founded in 1912 by William Andrews Clark, a Montana senator and copper baron who had founded Las Vegas just seven years earlier. Now protected as a National Historic Landmark, the picturesque village suggests what Las Vegas must have been like before the successive booms brought by the Hoover Dam, World War II training and industry, and legal gaming.

During the copper boom, Jerome became one of the largest cities in Arizona, its population reaching 15,000 people. Clinging to its improbable location atop a steep mountain, Jerome has reinvented itself as a habitat of art galleries, lively bars and quirky gift shops. It’s easy to include Jerome on the same trip; it lies only 6 miles from Clarkdale.

For that matter, the celebrated resort Sedona lies only 22 miles to the north, little more than a half-hour’s drive. Also in Clarkdale’s immediate vicinity are the prehistoric ruins of Tuzigoot National Park and Dead Horse Ranch State Park, where birdwatchers have identified more than 100 different species of feathered residents and visitors. Montezuma’s Castle National Monument, incorporating one of the best-preserved cliff dwellings of the Southwest, is nearly as close.

Many of Deborah Wall’s columns have been compiled in the book “Base Camp Las Vegas, Hiking the Southwestern States.” She is also the author of “Great Hikes, a Cerca Country Guide” and a co-author of the book “Access For All, Seeing the Southwest With Limited Mobility.” Wall can be reached at Deborabus@aol.com.

Directions

From Boulder City take U.S. Highway 93 south 80 miles to Kingman, Arizona. Merge onto Interstate 40 east and drive 96 miles to exit 146, Arizona State Route 89 south. Drive 43 miles and go left on 89-A for 31 miles. This takes you over Mingus Mountain Scenic Road and through Jerome. Continue on Arizona State Route 260 into Clarkdale and turn slight left onto North Broadway Street, continue to the Verde Canyon Railroad Depot.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Flaming Gorge known for fiery scenery, water activities

Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, located in southwestern Wyoming and northeastern Utah, makes an ideal summer destination for those seeking cool weather, stunning scenery or lots of water-related activities. It’s about a nine-hour drive from Boulder City, but rewards the effort with remarkable opportunities to fish, boat, raft, hike, camp or just drive the scenic roads.

BCHS graduate plans to compete nationally

Seasoned triathlete and 2021 Boulder City High School graduate Ethan Porter will compete in the 2021 Zone3 Junior Nationals at Voice of America Park later this month.

High school fishers find success at world finals

Boulder City was well represented at the 2021 12th annual High School Fishing World Finals and National Championship held June 30-July 3 on Lake Hartwell in Anderson, South Carolina, sending four high school fishermen from the Boulder City Bass Club.

More scenery, less crowds: Summer ‘grand’ time to visit canyon’s North Rim

If you are planning a visit to Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona — and most people do have that visit on their bucket lists — you might consider aiming at the North Rim instead of the better-known South Rim. This area of the park, accessed via the Arizona Strip, gets only about 10 percent the number of visitors who crowd the South Rim.

Tufa give Mono Lake its unique look

Mono Lake is located just east of the Sierra Nevada Range by the small town of Lee Vining, California, the eastern gateway to Yosemite National Park. Seeing it is a uniquely Western experience and summer is the time to see it.

Four volleyball standouts named to all-state team

Fresh off their first 3A state championship in school history, four Boulder City High School boys volleyball players were named to the 3A all-state team and six were named all-region performers.

Softball star Baker signs with St. Ambrose

Brooke Baker, a senior softball star at Boulder City High School, is moving on to the collegiate level, committing to NAIA program St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa.

Grothe vies for spot on Olympic swim team

Zane Grothe, a 2010 Boulder City High School graduate, remains in the running to be on the U.S. Olympic swimming team.