Dead Horse Ranch State Park joins in Birding and Nature Festival

Dead Horse Ranch State Park once again will host the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival April 22-25.

The Nature Festival, now in its fourth year, provides hands-on opportunities to learn about everything from the basics of birding to outdoor survival from local experts. Vendors offer all the necessary tools for skilled and beginning outdoor enthusiasts.

On Friday, April 23, local school classes visit the park to participate in nature activities. The popular "Essay Contest" comes again this year for local students. Winners receive binoculars and a field trip to the Birding and Nature Festival for all of their classmates. The festival is co-sponsoring a special birding curriculum workshop for educators on March 27; call 282-2202 for more information.

On Saturday evening, April 22, award-winning author Craig Childs, naturalist, adventurer, and commentator, is this year’s featured keynote speaker. His books on the Grand Canyon and the ecology of the desert have won accolades all over the West. Childs has written for Audubon, Sierra, Backpacker, Arizona Highway, Fine Cooking, and High Country News and authored six books on natural history and travel. The keynote reception and raffle is open to the public.

Saturday, April 24, is the official "Family Day" with special recreational and educational activities including games, crafts and workshops scheduled throughout the day just for children, but moms and dads are welcome, too. These activities are available without festival registration.

This year’s Nature Festival includes a special "Taste the Verde" opening reception on Thursday evening, April 22. Field trips start on Thursday, April 22 with the Tavasci Marsh Tour. The marsh, along with the adjoining Verde River Greenway, received designation as an Audubon Important Bird Area. From birds to butterflies, rock hounding to wildlife watching, the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival explores nature at her best. The tours and trips are designed for all levels of birders, but also thrill folks with an interest in visiting the natural wonders of Central Arizona. The festival welcomes several new field trip opportunities this year including a catered trip led by naturalist-poet-guide Curt Fultz from Goshawk Tours. You can also lead a llama to lunch along a canyon creek or catch a cultural tour to various state parks around the Verde Valley.

On Saturday, April 24, visitors can experience the way early naturalists explored bird life while joining "A’Birding on a Bronco" field trip or can enjoy trips to Arizona’s highlands and other birding hotspots throughout the Verde Valley. The "Cadillac Canoe Brunch’ returns on Saturday and Sunday. Take part in a day-long bus trip to the Grand Canyon on Sunday, April 25, to check out the regal California condor in the wild, which proved to be one of the festival's most popular trips. Visitors can also sign up for a trip to the Agua Fria National Monument or an all-day birding trip to the Prescott area.

Registration for the entire four-day Nature Festival is only $10 per adult. Field trips range from $10 to $60. Most include transportation from Dead Horse Ranch State Park, the festival’s central location. Nature Festival and field trip costs remain affordable even with the continuing small group sizes. Organizers recommend early registration to assure a place on the field trips. Information and a registration booklet are also available by calling 634-8437 to request a registration packet or check out the Nature Festival website at www.birdyverde.org. Included in the registration fee is the park entrance, exhibits, and presentations from local experts on various nature related topics.

Partnerships with the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce, Arizona State Parks, and the Northern Arizona Audubon Society originally brought this exciting Nature Festival to the area. Fourteen new organizations signed on to support this and other nature related projects in the Verde Valley. The Verde Nature Tourism Alliance consists of the three founding organizations plus Arizona Game and Fish, Prescott and Coconino National Forests, the Cities of Cottonwood, Camp Verde and Sedona, the Cottonwood Parks and Recreation Department, the Camp Verde Chamber of Commerce, the Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon Chamber of Commerce, Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments, the Verde Natural Resource Conservation District, the Bureau of Land Management, Yavapai College, Cliff Castle Casino and Lodge, and the Yavapai-Apache Nation.

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