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Hike #43 – Jacques Marsh

American Coots in Pintail Lake
American Coots in Jacques Marsh

Location: From the Pinetop Post Office on SR 260 (map):

  • Drive 2.7 miles west on 260 to the Porter Mountain Road traffic signal and turn right on Porter Mt. Road.
  • Drive around the rotary, down and up the hill, past the turn to Scott Reservoir, and turn left on Juniper Street, a distance of 1.5 miles from 260.
  • Drive west on Juniper St past the houses and through the juniper trees for 0.6 miles. You will see a kiosk/bulletin board and a large cinder/gravel parking lot on the right. Park here.

Trail: The roads around the sewage settling ponds are covered with large cinders making walking difficult. We walk on the tops of the berms around the margins of the many ponds. It is all level ground except walking up or down from the berms. You have to watch out for rocks and Prairie Dog burrows on the berms.

American Coots in Pintail Lake
Pond Across the Road and Below Jacques Marsh

Trailhead and Directions: Walk through the gate and go straight ahead (north) up on to the first berm. From here you can see if there is any water in the large pond ahead of you. Rarely this is dry, but when it is, there will be water in other ponds to the north and west (left). You can walk around the berms on any of the ponds to look for waterfowl. To the east (right) you will see a fenced area to preserve the vegetation around a small stream from grazing by elk. About 0.6 miles straight ahead by road or berm, there is a side road on the right. This road crosses the stream and leads to two other large ponds. Sometimes these are dry, but sometimes full. If you walk the berms of these two ponds to the south, you will come to the end of the fencing on the right and a path to cross the small stream, and an old road that leads to a locked gate. You can step through the gate bars and follow the cinder/gravel road to the entry road, turn right, and go back to your car.

Access: Hiking or bicycles, although biking would not be easy on the cinders. No motor vehicle access. Not handicapped accessible. Duck hunting is allowed in fall.

Distance: Depends on where and how far you walk on the berms around the different ponds. If you were to walk straight ahead along the berm and then take the side road and walk back south to the road and to your car, the distance is about 1.5 miles.

Difficulty: Easy except walking on the cinders is uncomfortable.

Features: The number and variety of waterfowl depends on season and which ponds are flooded. Usually there are families of Canada Geese, many Mallards, and populations of Cinnamon Teal and Ruddy Ducks in summer. All the other common local ducks can be there especially in spring, fall, and winter. Shorebirds are rare except for Killdeer and the occasional Greater Yellowlegs, possibly Long-billed Dowitcher, Least and other sandpipers, and sometime Wilson’s Phalaropes. Great Blue Herons are common as are Osprey, Pied-billed Grebe, American Coot, Common Yellowthroat, Red-winged and Yellow-headed Blackbirds, and Western Meadowlarks. Soras can be here as well. There are lots of different plants around the ponds, mostly referred to as “weeds,” including Russian Thistle, Globe Mallow, Cocklebur, and Dock, but sometimes you will find Purple Salsify, Astragalus, Lanceleaf and Sawtooth Sage, Hairy False Goldenaster, Coreopsis, milkweed, and others in season. There is a thriving colony of Prairie Dogs that make burrows in the berms and flat areas in the eastern portion of the marsh.

Connections: If you have some time and wish to explore the area nearby, walk a few yards back up the road towards Porter Mountain Road and before the cattle guard, walk to the right on a rough dirt road through the junipers. The road wanders downhill and eventually forks. In between the forks is a dirt trail. Walk this trail down hill and down a steep and rocky trail through large rocks and small rolling stones to the bottom where you will see a small pond hidden between 50 foot walls of basalt. This creek comes from Scott Reservoir to the east and extends to the west. The large trees on the southwest corner of the pond appear to be Arizona Cypress, uncommon in this area. Lewis’s Woodpeckers are here along with seasonal forest birds. You can walk left or right a short distance on old cattle paths but it is a steep climb up through the rocks.

Jacques Marsh Trail Map
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