A vegetation mapping system for change detection was tested at the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge (HNWR) on the Lower Colorado River. A low-cost, aerial photomosaic of the 4200 ha, study area was constructed utilizing an automated digital camera system, supplemented with oblique photographs to aid in determining species composition and plant heights. Ground-truth plots showed high accuracy in distinguishing native cottonwood (Populus fremontii) and willow (Salix gooddingii) trees from other vegetation on aerial photos. Marsh vegetation (mainly cattails, Typha domengensis) was also easily identified. However, shrubby terrestrial vegetation, consisting of saltcedar (Tamarix ramosissima), arrowweed (Pluchea sericea), and mesquite trees (Prosopis spp.), could not be accurately distinguished from each other and were combined into a single shrub layer on the final vegetation map. The final map took the form of a base, shrub and marsh layer, which was displayed as a Normalized Difference Vegetation Index map from a Landsat Enhanced Thematic Mapper (ETM+) image to show vegetation intensity. Native willow and cottonwood trees were digitized manually on the photomosaic and overlain on the shrub layer in a GIS. By contrast to present, qualitative mapping systems used on the Lower Colorado River, this mapping system provides quantitative information that can be used for accurate change detection. However, better methods to distinguish between saltcedar, mesquite, and arrowweed are needed to map the shrub layer.