White Mountains Online

Pintail Lake and Redhead Marsh


Created Wetlands In Northern Arizona


Shorebirds using Telephone Lake.Pintail Lake and Redhead Marshes have exceeded the original objectives and expectations. What started out as a project to favor waterfowl has developed into a complex of wetland ecosystems with a wide range of benefits. Similar projects in other areas have been developed as a result of the success here.


Experience has shown that the addition of water to these previously arid sites brings on dramatic vegetation changes. A prime objective has been the establishment of a vigorous vegetative cover. Cattail, water grass, spike rush, and various sedges have become established naturally in the created wetlands while others such as hardstem, softstem, and alkali bulrushes and sego pondweed have been successfully planted.


The response of animals to the new wetlands has been exciting. After 3 years of data collection on Pintail Lake, L. Piest (1981) stated: "The response of breeding waterfowl has been dramatic. I estimated that 1,544 ducklings or 76.4 ducklings per hectare (30.93 per acre), were produced in 1981." The response of other birds has been similar with the establishment of cormorant and black-crowned night heron rookeries in the new wetlands.

To date ten bird species which are classified as endangered, threatened, or sensitive have been seen using the wetlands. These include the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, osprey, northern goshawk, snowy egret, belted kingfisher, American avocet, sora rail, black-crowned night heron, and the double-crested cormorant. Four of these species (the avocet, sora rail, blackcrowned night heron, and cormorant) have been found nesting here. A survey done in 1991 to document total bird use on a weekly basis found 120 different species of birds using the created wetlands. Some of the birds are predators, feeding on fathead minnows, a small fish that inhabits part of this wetland system. Other animals found in the wetlands include rocky mountain elk, mule deer, pronghorn, black bear, coyote, raccoon, and various kinds of amphibians.

People are also attracted to these wetlands for a variety of reasons ~ to relax and watch animals if probably the intent of most people. Facilities were provided to improve wildlife viewing at Pintail Lake. School groups often use these wetlands for environmental field trips. The concepts of wastewater cleanup and recycling have more meaning after experiencing the created wetlands.


Newly established cormorant rookery.Since the first wetland was built at Pintail Lake in 1978 to the present, the wetlands have been a cooperative effort. The "core team," which started the project and continues to make it successful today, include the City of Show Low, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Other groups have also played a major role. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has provided guidance and funding for this innovative wastewater treatment project. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is involved in the monitoring and operational permitting process.

The wetland project is also supported by the local communities. This includes the local schools with their field trips. The White Mountain Chapter of the Audubon Society with the field trips and work projects.


. Piest, 1981. "Evaluation of Waterfowl Habitat Improvements on the Apache/Sitgreaves National Forests, Arizona" USDA/Forest Service. 119pp.

For more information, please feel free to contact the USDA Forest Service, Lakeside Ranger District at 520.368.5111 or you may write us at 2022 W. White Mtn. Blvd., Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona 85935

White Mountains Online wishes to express our appreciation to the USDA Forest Service, Lakeside District for providing this information! This and other articles may be found in print media entitled:

Constructed Wetlands for Wastewater Treatment and Wildlife Habitat
United States Environmental Protection Agency
September 1993

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