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High country gem: Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area
By Tom Cadden, public information officer, Arizona Game and Fish Department
Nestled in the shadow of Escudilla Mountain a few miles south of the eastern Arizona town of Eagar, the Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area is a special high-country destination that can be enjoyed by hunters, anglers, wildlife watchers and others who love the outdoors.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department acquired the 1,362-acre property in 1993 when it purchased the White Mountain Hereford Ranch. The area was renamed the Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area two years later.
The area boasts a combination of grassland, pinyon-juniper woodland, and riparian habitat, making it home to a diversity of wildlife species. Elk are found here throughout the year, with fall and winter the best times to see them. Waterfowl are readily seen during fall and spring migration periods. The area is used by a variety of raptors, including ospreys, hawks and golden eagles, and nesting birds such as rufous and broad-tailed hummingbirds, Lewis’ and acorn woodpeckers, and mountain bluebirds. Other wildlife to look for are gray fox, striped skunks, badgers, coyotes, mule deer, Merriam’s turkey, pronghorn antelope, and a variety of ground squirrels, chipmunks and bats.
“Since acquiring the property, the department has steadily enhanced its habitat values and attractions for visitors,” says Bruce Sitko, information and education program manager for the Game and Fish Pinetop region.
A small visitor center, a series of hiking trails complete with interpretive signage and wildlife viewing sites, and a day-use picnic area offer the public the opportunity to learn more about Arizona’s unique wildlife and their habitat needs.
The public is welcome to hike, bicycle or horseback ride on the property. The four hiking trails range from easy to moderate in difficulty and take visitors to wetlands, meadows, old homesteads and scenic vistas. The longest is a 2.5-mile loop. Several wildlife viewing points are located on the trails, including one on the High Point Trail Overlook, which has a 20x spotting scope for locating wildlife in the surrounding forest and meadows.
The visitor center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, from mid-May until the beginning of October. Even when the visitor center is closed (as it is now), visitors can explore the grounds.
Hunting is allowed on the property in season.
To get to the Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area, take U.S. Highway 180/191 south from Eagar towards Alpine. At the signs on top of a mesa two miles from Eagar, turn off on an improved dirt road and drive five miles to the property. Park your car at one of two designated areas.
For more information, visit http://www.azgfd.gov/outdoor_recreation/wildlife_area_sipe.shtml