Wildlife Viewing Areas
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Sierra Vista Environmental Operations Park
These constructed wetlands are part of Sierra Vista’s water reclamation facility and attract a large number of birds. Nearly 50 acres of wetlands can be seen from the wildlife-viewing platform.
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San Pedro Riparian NCA
Description: The San Pedro River enters Arizona from Sonora, Mexico, flows north between the Huachuca and Mule Mountain ranges, and joins the Gila River 100 miles downstream. Along its banks, this conservation area provides habitat for over 375 species of birds. Vegetation along the river corridor includes Fremont cottonwoods, Goodding willow, and other riparian trees and shrubs with adjacent mesquite bosques and dense stands of sacaton grass. Upland areas are Chihuahuan Desert scrub.

The National Conservation Area also features many significant archeological and historic sites, including Spanish fortress remains, early Clovis nomadic hunting sites, a mammoth-kill site, historic “ghost towns,” and petroglyphs.

Wildlife to Watch: While primarily known for birding, the area has a high diversity of mammal life as well, although many are nocturnal. Included are diverse species of rodents, bats, mountain lions, and bobcats. Other mammals, like the white-tailed deer, mule deer, javelina, desert cottontail, and black-tailed jackrabbit are commonly observed. More than 250 species of butterflies representing 5 families can be found; in the early fall, hundreds of thousands of butterflies are attracted to wildflowers in bloom. Amphibians such as Mexican spadefoot and red-spotted toad breed in backwaters and ephemeral pools along the river. Clark’s spiny lizard is commonly seen on the towering cottonwoods, just one of the many lizard species found in the area. Western hog-nosed snake, gophersnake, coachwhip, and western diamond-backed and Mojave rattlesnakes are also found in the area.

Recognized internationally as a premier birding site, this area attracts thousands of birders each year. Over 100 species of breeding birds and another 250+ species of migratory and wintering birds occur in this area, representing roughly half the number of known breeding species in North America. Wintering sparrows include vesper, Brewer’s white-crowned, swamp, and Lincoln’s. Notably, 36 species of birds of prey, including the gray, Swainson’s, zone-tailed, and Cooper’s hawks, common black-hawk, northern harrier, elf and western screech-owl can be found here. Other species include the green kingfisher, northern beardless-tyrannulet, yellow-breasted chat, vermilion flycatcher, Say’s and black phoebes, blue grosbeak, summer tanager, Cassin’s kingbird, and yellow-billed cuckoo.

Special Tips: Park at any access point and walk up or down the river for best viewing. Rattlesnakes are common throughout the area. Warm weather visitors should take appropriate precautions when hiking or recreating in the NCA and adjacent areas. Though snake encounters are not uncommon, bites from these animals are rare

Other Activities: The San Pedro Trail parallels the river though most of the Conservation Area. Two trail sections can be accessed from the San Pedro House (headquarters): the San Rafael del Valle section heads south to Hereford Road (8 miles). The Clanton section begins just north of Hwy. 90 and goes north, past the ruins of the Clanton Ranch (3 miles) to Escapule Rd, (3.6 miles). An interpretive loop trail begins at the San Pedro House and passes several historic and cultural sites. Be aware of flooding during monsoons.

Ownership: Bureau of Land Management 
Size: 60,000 acres 
Closest Town: Sierra Vista

Facilities:
RestroomsParkingHikingVisitor CenterDrinking Water

Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing:
SpringSummerFallWinter

San Pedro Riparian NCA - photo by George Andrejko
Map
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Driving Directions:
Seven miles east of Sierra Vista on SR 90.

Map Link

 
San Pedro Riparian NCA : Wildlife Viewing Area