County wants visitors to discover Hassayampa preserve, hidden treasure in Wickenburg

As many as 280 species of birds migrate or nest in the Hassayampa River Preserve, according to the Nature Conservancy. Maricopa County will officially take over the preserve April 16 and plans to renovate a visitor center and expand parking over the next several years. (Photo by Devon Cordell/Cronkite News)

The Hassayampa River Preserve provides a view of the 100-mile long river. Officials for Maricopa County Parks and Recreation said the county will take over the preserve from the Nature Conservancy on April 16. (Photo by Devon Cordell/Cronkite News)

WICKENBURG – A hidden gem is getting revamped.

Maricopa County, which will soon become the sole manager of the Hassayampa River Preserve, plans to expand parking and revamp the visitor’s center over several years.

The Nature Conservancy will turn over operations to the county on April 16.

“The first thing that we thought was important was get some quality restroom buildings here, some upgraded picnic facilities and better parking. That will be the first phase of the development that we’ll be starting this summer,” said R.J. Cardin, director of the county Parks and Recreation department.

The visitor’s center, which was a stagecoach stop in the late 1800s, will retain its historical feel through any upgrades, he said.

(Map created by Janie Hoyt/Cronkite News)

“We really want to keep the integrity of the historic property here and the integrity of the preserve and the conservation area as well,” Cardin said.

Maricopa County Supervisor Clint Hickman said a goal is to get more people to stop by the preserve.

The preserve provides an up-close look of the Hassayampa River. The preserve features a small lake, 280 species of birds and several self-guided trails.

“Some of these things are important to preserve but also utilize, not just stare at it from a car going 55 miles an hour but actually offer services there that people can use,” Hickman said.

Maricopa County hopes the Hassayampa Preserve will act as a gateway to the nearby Vulture Mountain Recreation Area, a park the county already owns.

The Hassayampa River Preserve is near U.S. Highway 60 in Wickenburg. It is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday.

(Video by Janie Hoyt/Cronkite News)