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, mainly the Mohave and Quechan. The tribes farmed the river floodplain, which flooded annually and deposited 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, steamer ships constantly travelled the Colorado River carrying supplies to the small military outposts of the frontier and later to the miners, settlers and farmers that came into the region. The refuge’s name, Cibola, refers to the legendary Seven Golden Cities of Cibola, which early Spanish explorers believed existed in the Southwestern United States. Though it is unknown why this name was chosen exactly, it likely suggests great wealth due to the numerous mines in the region.
Cibola began as a simple steamboat landing where ships unloaded cargo and loaded wood needed for their boilers. Since then, Cibola has developed into a small farming community that also houses the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge. At the refuge, visitors can enjoy wildlife-focused recreation, such as wildlife watching, photography, hunting, fishing, and environmental education programs.
The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management and, where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.
Everywas created for a special purpose. Some were created to protect migratory birds, others to protect threatened or endangered species or unique habitats, while others fulfill another special purpose. Refuges are special places where wildlife comes first. All activities allowed on refuges must be evaluated to make sure each activity will not conflict with the reason the refuge was founded.
August 21, 1964 - Cibola National Wildlife Refuge was established by Public Land Order 3442 as mitigation for the straightening, channelization, and armoring of the banks of the Colorado River by the Bureau of Reclamation to prevent flooding.
December 7, 2005 - Public Law No: 109-127 transferred 104.32 acres from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the Bureau of Land Management.
1964 to 2006 - Lands were added to the refuge by various means including transfer from other federal agencies, lease, purchase, and donation bringing the total refuge acreage to its current 18,444.67 acres.
Other Facilities in this Complex
Cibola National Wildlife Refuge is part of the Southwest Arizona National Wildlife Refuge Complex.