Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, located in the floodplain of the lower Colorado River, was established in 1964 as mitigation for the straightening, channelization, and armoring of the banks of the Colorado River by the Bureau of Reclamation to prevent flooding. The purpose of the 18,444-acre refuge is to protect and recreate the marshes, backwaters, and meanders that historically provided wintering grounds for migratory waterfowl and other wildlife that natural flooding would have formed.
Cibola was part of the ancestral and traditional home of the Yuma Tribes of the Colorado River, principally the Mohave and Quechan. The tribes farmed the river floodplain, which flooded annually depositing rich soils for crops. Following each harvest, the people left the river to hunt and gather wild plants in the neighboring desert uplands, returning to plant crops after the spring floods had subsided.
In the 1800s, steamers plied the Colorado River carrying supplies to the small military outposts of the frontier and later to the miners, settlers, and farmers that flowed into the region. The origin of the name Cibola refers to the legendary Seven Golden Cities of Cibola, which early Spanish explorers believed existed in the Southwestern United States. The exact intent of the name is unknown, but probably implies great wealth due to the numerous mines in the region.
Originally a steamboat landing where the steamers unloaded freight and took on wood for their boilers, today Cibola is a small farming community that is also home to Cibola National Wildlife Refuge where visitors can enjoy wildlife-dependent recreation, including wildlife watching and photography, hunting, fishing and environmental education programs.