Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests
Springerville Ranger District
Portions of this area were impacted by the 2011 Wallow Fire. While parts of the forest did burn, most is still intact, and wildlife viewing opportunities are not diminished.
This 36-mile scenic driving loop passes through high-elevation grassland, ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forest, and wetland and river riparian habitats, including the West Fork of the Little Colorado River at Sheep Crossing, Lee Valley Reservoir, Basin Lake Marsh, Crescent Lake and Mexican Hay Lake.
Pronghorn antelope, elk, mule deer, coyote and an occasional Merriam’s turkey can be seen from the road, especially at sunrise and sunset. In marsh and riparian areas, look for great blue heron, belted kingfisher, Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawk, red-winged and yellow-headed blackbird and a variety of waterfowl.
Sheep Crossing is a favorite fishing and picnic area. Look here for American dipper, red crossbill, golden-crowned kinglet and an occasional olive warbler. Lee Valley Reservoir is located a half-mile south of State Highway 273.
Here you can find long-tailed weasel, Abert’s and red squirrel, and a variety of ground squirrels and chipmunks. Bird species include great blue heron, osprey, bald eagle, common merganser, eared grebe (migrant), and migrating and breeding songbirds.
Habitat: Aquatic, wetland riparian, ponderosa pine forest, mixed conifer, high-elevation grassland
Seasons: Spring, summer and fall.
Location: From the junction of Highways 260 and 273 (milepost 377.4) on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, take Highway 273 southeast about six miles to the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests boundary.
Follow Highway 273 11.5 miles to the junction with Highway 261 at Crescent Lake. Follow Highway 261 18.5 miles to the intersection with Highway 260, three miles west of Eagar.
Access: 24 hours daily. Highway 273 is graveled, but suitable for passenger cars in good weather. Highways 260 and 261 are paved. Highways 261 and 273 are closed in the winter.
Near: Eagar or Springerville