Special Thanks to:

Best Western in Cottonwood for hosting our keynote speaker.
Jay’s Bird Barn for providing the Armchair Birding opportunity
and as a sponsor of the Welcome Reception.
Caffe Ibis for the bird-friendly coffee.
Verde River Growers for a tree and plants for the Aviary.
Home Depot for the kid’s birdhouse kits.
Doug Von Gausig of Critical Eye Photography for bird images.
APS for printing our brochure.
Registrar, Jeri Higgins.


The Verde Valley Birding & Nature Festival engages birders, photographers, and nature lovers by providing quality guided birding experiences and workshops across Northern Arizona.


We envision a festival that celebrates an appreciation of a broad spectrum of resident and migratory birds and wildlife in their natural habitats while encouraging stewardship of the unique ecosystem created by the Verde River and its tributaries.

About the Festival

Located 100 miles North of Phoenix in North Central Arizona’s Verde Valley, the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival gives participants the opportunity to experience birding during the peak Spring migration season.

The four-day festival is held at Dead Horse Ranch State Park on the banks of the Verde River.  With close proximity to the Verde, Oak Creek, Sycamore Creek and other perennial waters, festival participants get to choose from over 80 field trips, hikes, and workshops in one of Arizona’s richest birding habitats.

Our experienced guides have extensive knowledge of birds and the habitat that make this region so unique.  The more than 60 volunteers that work year round to coordinate the festival create a welcome and friendly environment for the more than 400 annual participants.

The Verde Valley Birding & Nature Festival is presented each April by Friends of the Verde River, a purpose driven community benefit organization and 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, working to preserve one of the last perennial flowing rivers in the American Southwest


Located 100 miles North of Phoenix in North Central Arizona’s Verde Valley, the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival gives Dead Horse Ranch State Park is located in Cottonwood, AZ. A short one and a half hour drive north from Phoenix, you’ll find the Verde Valley. The Verde Valley includes about 714 square miles located in the geographic center of Arizona, about 100 miles north of the Phoenix metropolitan area. The City of Cottonwood is located adjacent to the Verde River at elevations ranging from 3,300 feet to 3,900 feet above sea level and experiences a mild climate.

From Interstate I-17, take the Camp Verde exit and head west on 260 for approximately 18 miles.

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Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival Leadership Committee

The Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival is coordinated through the work of countless volunteers. This list represents the leadership of these volunteers from across our community.
Event Coordinator: Laura Jones
AZ State Parks and Trails Liaison: George Christianson
Field Trips: Whit Manter
Workshop and Keynote Speaker: Nanette Armstrong
Canoe and Kayak Trips: Bob Rothrock
Social Events: Joan Otterson
Vendors and Exhibits: Dennis Tomko
Logistics: Harry Sweet and John Kinnamon
Raffle and Gift Shop: Connie Gilmore and Michael Durgain
Volunteer Coordination: Chris Jensen and Michael Levick
Graphic Design: Kristin Follett
Family Nature Festival: Kathleen Green
Registrar: Jeri Higgins
Finances: Matt Gilbert

The Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival is a program of Friends of the Verde River. Friend’s works collaboratively to restore habitat, sustain flows and promote community stewardship to support a healthy Verde River system. To this end, we envision a healthy, flowing Verde River and tributaries that support our unique environment, vibrant economy, and quality of life for future generations.

Our Story

The Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival started as a celebration of birding at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in 2001. The founders were looking for a way to provide a fun and educational birding experience to both the local community and visitors. We knew we had an undiscovered treasure in the diversity of habitats within the Verde Valley as well as great birding in Dead Horse Ranch State Park.

The festival is organized by a planning committee made up of Friends staff and community volunteers. Some represent agencies and organizations but they all donate their time throughout the year toward the success of the event. The committee has adopted a section of roadway that crosses the Verde River and cleans up litter every other month.  They also contribute their time to other work projects, programs and environmental organizations throughout the valley. These dedicated people are the heart of the event.

In 2005 the event was recognized by the State of Arizona as an Arizona Treasure. The event has grown into one of the most popular events of this type in Arizona. We share the popularity of birding in Arizona with Southwest Wings, and the Wings Over Wilcox, both annual trip-based festivals.

One of the key elements of the event is the educational aspect. Not only do we offer workshops for the participants but we work with the local schools to provide educational resources for the students. We offer an essay contest for students with the award being a good pair of binoculars to start them on this lifetime hobby plus their class is invited to the park during the event to enjoy programs planned especially for them. We also work with youth groups to foster the love of the outdoors, nature and birding. The festival also includes the Family Nature Fair where families can attend for free and learn about nature through fun activities. Again, all this is possible through the support of the community.

We are referred to as the Friendliest Birding Festival” and it is our pleasure to try to maintain that reputation. We also pride ourselves on the uniqueness of the trips, the knowledge of the leaders, and the value and satisfaction that the participants receive. We hope you enjoy your time in the Verde River Valley and participating in the festival. Welcome!

We would also like to thank all the field trip leaders and presenters who without their knowledge and enthusiasm, this festival would not be possible.

The Festival Committee would like to thank all of YOU for your support of the festival and for your commitment to the natural environment.

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