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Desert Touring

While you're in a Middle Eastern mood (or if you've got the kids with you), consider spending some time at the Camel Farm, 15672 S. Ave. 1E (tel. 928/920-7281), which is on the east side of Yuma at the corner of County 16th Road (call for directions). Here at the farm you can get to know the resident camels and the other 25 species of exotic animals. The farm is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 5pm, and admission is $4 ($3 for seniors), free for children 3 and under. Closed in summer.

The Colorado River has been the lifeblood of the Southwestern desert for centuries, and today there's a wealth of history along its banks. Yuma River Tours (tel. 928/783-4400; www.yumarivertours.com) operates narrated jet-boat tours from Yuma to the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge and a 48-mile trip upriver to Draper. Along the way, you'll learn about the homesteaders, boatmen, Native Americans, and miners who once relied on the Colorado River. Tours cost $48 to $95. This company also does tours in a paddle-wheeler. Three-hour tours are $48 ($57 with lunch), and 2-hour sunset dinner cruises are $63. During the warmer months (early May through mid-Oct), you can also float a stretch of the Colorado River in an inner tube. Yuma River Tubing (tel. 928/750-0247; www.letsgotubing.com) rents inner tubes and operates a shuttle from West Wetlands Park, 350 N. 12th Ave. You can float the river for as little as an hour or as long as half a day.

If you're a bird-watcher, an angler, or a canoeist, you'll want to spend some time along the Colorado River north of Yuma. Here you'll find the Imperial and Cibola national wildlife refuges, which preserve marshes and shallow lakes along the river. Plenty of bird species and good fishing and canoeing make it a popular area. For more information, contact the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge (tel. 928/783-3371; www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/arizona/imperial/index.html) or the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge (tel. 928/857-3253; www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/cibolanwr/index.html).

One of the best ways to explore the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge is by canoe. You can rent one from Martinez Lake Resort (tel. 800/876-7004; www.martinezlake.com) for $20 a day and paddle around Martinez Lake. Multiday canoe trips are offered by Yuma River Tours (tel. 928/783-4400; www.yumarivertours.com) along this stretch of the lower Colorado, which features rugged, colorful mountains and quiet backwater areas.

Bird-watchers will want to head out to Betty's Kitchen Watchable Wildlife Area ($10 day-use fee per vehicle) and the adjacent Mittry Lake Wildlife Area. To get there, take U.S. 95 east out of town, turn north on Avenue 7E (Laguna Dam Rd.), and continue 9 miles, at which point the road turns to gravel. Turn left in a quarter of a mile to reach Betty's Kitchen; continue straight to reach Mittry Lake. Fall and spring migrations are some of the best times of year for birding at these spots; many waterfowl winter in the area as well. For information on Betty's Kitchen and Mittry Lake, contact the Bureau of Land Management, Yuma Field Office, 2555 E. Gila Ridge Rd., Yuma (tel. 928/317-3200; www.blm.gov/az/st/en/fo/yuma_field_office.html).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.