The Dateland Shrimp Ponds
Note: The ponds are currently inactive as of 2017. We will update this article when we have more information.
In the summer of 2003 Willie and I were exploring one of Patton's old training camps in the nearby desert. Looking south, I saw what looked like water. Hoping it wasn't a mirage, we headed in that direction and found a mecca for birds and dragonflies. So far we've recorded over 120 birds there!
Beginning in late spring (in 2005 it was May), Tark Rush fills up and stocks these ten large, multi-acre ponds with shrimp fry. As the shrimp mature all manner of birds (see lists below) descend upon the ponds to feast, until Tark harvests the shrimp in October and the ponds dry out. (In 2004 there were still a few puddles with ducks & shorebirds on Nov 5th.) Winter is slow at the dried-out ponds, with Horned Larks and the occasional Savannah Sparrow.
Use care when driving around the ponds; the dikes are narrow and powdery dirt, and parts may be eroded. If you see the feeding hopper, give it a wide berth, and please don't block any of the dike roads. You can always park south of the drainage canal, or along Ave 64E, and walk in. If you are planning a visit, you might wish to call Tark as a courtesy to find out the status of visiting these private ponds: 928-246-1877
If you come in mid to late summer, keep in mind that you're in the heart of the desert, where afternoon temps often exceed 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately, water, food, and gas are available at Dateland, immediately south of the I-8 exit. And in the date palm grove immediately south of Dateland, you may find a Barn Owl and an assortment of flycatchers, warblers, and sparrows at the appropriate times of year.
Western and Baird's Sandpipers
Great Egret eating a shrimp
Click on any of the thumbnail
pictures to see full-sized photos.