San Pedro House & Trails, Sierra Vista, AZ

Nine miles east of downtown Sierra Vista is the San Pedro River. It is a northward-flowing, 143 mile undammed river in the southwest, from Mexico into the USA; however, parts of the San Pedro are no longer perennially flowing. The river basin is home to many species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish, but with the water table lowered due to irrigation and human/domestic use there is huge concern for this riparian area. Nature Conservancy is one organization working to protect tracts along the river.

On my recent visit to the San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area, we parked near the historic ranch house, now a gift shop unfortunately closed due to Covid-19. We walked at least 2 miles of the trail network viewing birds, huge cottonwood and willow trees, and noticing the trail is also available to mountain bikers and equestrians.

We walked along the river most of our time during this visit and also in what once was agricultural land. There was a time when alfalfa and other feed for cattle grew there. But the shady river bed was our favorite area.

We saw a variety of birds and many, many white-crowned sparrows! Fortunately we became aware of a great horned owl sitting in a tree so we spent time observing him as he slept.

There once was a sand and gravel quarry a short distance from the ranch house. It is now referred to as Kingfisher Pond; despite reports, I saw no kingfisher in the area. It is a large hole filled with ground and flood water with no surface inlets or outlets. We did see an American coot, a pied-billed grebe and once again more white-crowned sparrows hiding under the reeds along the pond’s edge.

Eventually there will be a 30 mile trail and hopefully have more environmental protections for this wildlife area. It is necessary to protect areas such as here. The area provides a passage/greenway for wildlife from one area to another, especially between mountain ranges. If you are interested in conservation and restoration of the area, look into Friends of the San Pedro River, a non-profit organization assisting the Bureau of Land management, or The Nature Conservancy with its goal of creating a world where people and nature can thrive. We need rivers with water flow and a variety of habitats for wildlife to survive while we also build our communities. It does require thought, planning and recognition of the importance of nature in our world. We can do it!