Coldwater Farm occupies an undeveloped section of the Town of Dewey-Humboldt in central Arizona. The Agua Fria River runs through the eastern edge of the Farm. The river seeps below a dry bed over most of its journey 80 miles south to the Gila River west of Phoenix, but as the water passes through the farm, a subterranean basalt flow forces it above ground creating a one-mile reach of permanent surface flow. Native Cottonwood and Willow dominate the banks and form a small closed-canopy forest on a floodplain formed by the confluence of the river and three intermittent washes.
Three large ponds on the floodplain combine with the river to create a moist oasis inhabited by a rich array of plants and animals. Several reports (butterflies 2017, weeds 2020, and birds 2021) document the farm’s wildlife.
The Farm’s Habitats
Previous landuse and appearance provide labels for the farm’s habitats. Beginning at the lowest point, habitats at the farm include:
- Open water flowing in the Agua Fria River (<1 acre)
- Streamside gravel bars and sandy banks (1 acre)
- Willow patches. Linear patches of willow shrubs with scattered Salt Cedar, cottonwood trees, and willow trees (1+ acre)
- The woods. Cottonwood-willow gallery forest on the floodplain (6 acres)
- Three perennial ponds:
- Spring Pond (1800 sq. ft) is the smallest of the three ponds.
- Boat Pond (9600 sq. ft) Pictured above, this pond has a small dock, but it hasn’t been used for boating since 2010.
- Lilly Pond (7200 sq. ft) named for the extensive cover by Fragrant Lilies (Nymphaea odorata)
- Three former pastures currently dominated by weeds and bordered by trees:
- Cow Pasture west of the house (5 acres)
- Horse Pasture east of the house (3 acres)
- Well House Pasture north of the Spring Pond (3 acres).
In what may be an unprecedented collaborative effort, the Town of Dewey-Humboldt and local chapters of nine conservation groups came together in 2019 to permanently protect the farm with a Conservation Easement that prevents all future construction and other developments on the farm. In addition to the Town, the groups contributing the funds to establish and maintain the Easement include the Highlands Center for Natural History, the Prescott Audubon Society, the Citizen’s Water Advocacy Group, the Sierra Club-Yavapai Group, the Arizona Native Plant Society-Prescott Chapter, the Arizona Riparian Council, Friends of the Agua Fria National Monument, the Upper Agua Fria Watershed Group, and the Agua Fria Open Space Alliance, Inc.
A human-caused fire burned most of the farm in the spring of 2021. Many shrubs and trees were killed by the fire, but a wet summer helped sprout from undamaged roots. Most will recover. Meanwhile, with no shade and lots of rain, the weed flora is celebrating a grand expansion.