Marvelous Muleshoe Ranch Service, Gailuro Mountains, Arizona

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14445A, Service/ Volunteer


  • Experience high Sonoran and Chihuahuan desert habitat
  • Enjoy a prime desert wetland
  • Visit the Chricahuas, the Galiuros, Karchner Caverns, or Cochise Stronghold


  • Lodging in fully equipped historic buildings at Muleshoe Ranch
  • Home-cooked meals in the commons great room
  • Hot springs a few steps from your door
  • Short morning hatha yoga session


DatesFeb 9–15, 2014
StaffAudrey Cullen

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Trip Overview

The Trip

In southeast Arizona, the great Sonoran desert and the Chihuahuan desert reach out to meet one another. Lofty mountains with large undulating flat basins provide runoff to the streams and tributaries of the San Pedro River. The river is born in Mexico and flows north with life-sustaining water to produce a desert wetland, a sanctuary for year-round mountain and desert species, and a rest stop for flocks of migrating birds.

The Muleshoe Ranch protects most of the watershed area for seven permanently flowing San Pedro tributaries, along with some of the best remaining aquatic habitat in Arizona. Some 80 percent of the region's wildlife species -- which include coatimundi, black bear, javalina, white tail and mule deer, mountain lion, and desert bighorn sheep -- depend on these desert streams.

In the first half of the 20th century, the San Pedro River Valley was a quiet area of ranches and farms. Present-day population growth, urban sprawl, and the current short-sighted management of the region's water supply present significant challenges to the preservation of the San Pedro River riparian corridor and its animal inhabitants.

The Project

Over many years we have developed a great working relationship with the folks at the Muleshoe Ranch. Each year we try to outdo our previous year’s achievements and build on a growing understanding of the fragile yet enduring ecosystem that the Muleshoe embraces. Joining us at the Muleshoe Ranch is an opportunity to contribute to those efforts and educate yourself about this desert and its abundance of life.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is identifying several projects suitable for our group based on their staffing needs. We prefer a variety of projects to suit all levels of strength and stamina, and no previous experience is necessary. Likely projects will include removing existing fencing that cuts off a large parcel of wildlife habitat, brushing and fixing trails, and other tasks as needed. While hiking to and from the various projects through 100-year-old cottonwoods and dense riparian areas, expect to observe riparian birds and wildlife tracks of all sorts. Getting to the worksites may require hiking or sometimes truck travel over ranch roadways.


We’ll meet on the first day and have lunch in Willcox, Arizona. Following introductions and instructions, we’ll proceed the remaining 30 miles to Muleshoe Ranch Preserve. Upon our arrival, we will tour our new surroundings, unpack, and have a couple hours before dinner.

We will work 6-8 hours each day, with some alternation of work crews to allow trip participants to hike, photograph, and sightsee the surrounding area. At the end of each day, participants not assigned to that day's cook crew are at leisure to tour the established trails or soak tired muscles in the spring-fed hot tubs.

All trip participants who are confirmed on this trip will receive bulletins from the trip leader with more specific information as it becomes available. Please email the trip leader for questions about the trip; do not contact the Muleshoe Ranch Preserve.



Getting There

You are responsible for getting yourself to the meeting point in Willcox, Arizona and to and from the Ranch. Your mode and cost of transportation to the ranch are not included in the trip price. Commercial flights and car rentals are available in Tucson (closest) and Phoenix. Driving directions and the specific meeting location will be sent to registered participants. Carpooling is strongly recommended. As soon as a complete list of participants is available, the leader will forward a copy to all trip members to facilitate their planning of transportation.

Accommodations and Food

All participants will be based and bunked at the Muleshoe Ranch. The Muleshoe Ranch Preserve offers a mix of original and renovated historic buildings dating from the late 1800s. Each housekeeping unit is fully equipped, containing bath, kitchen, furnishings, and linens. You will need to bring your own toiletries. Natural hot springs and the McMurray commons facilities are available to our group. The morning and evening meals will be provided and taken in the commons dining room. Lunch will be at the worksite.

Mealtimes will depend on our activity schedule. Reasonable dietary requests -- especially concerning food allergies -- should be noted on your questionnaire. Meatless menus are not a problem as long as we are aware of your preferences. Kitchen duties will be shared by all -- expect to help out one or two days during the week. Smoking is not permitted anywhere indoors and may be limited in some outdoor areas. Our first meal on the premises will be dinner on day one; our last meal will be breakfast on the last day.

Trip Difficulty

If you have always wanted to do a service trip but are wary of camping, this trip may be for you. This will be a moderately strenuous trip. Be in good shape and prepared for lots of hard work and fun.

Anyone who doesn't live in the mountains or high desert environs must have a healthy respect for the altitude: At 4,875 feet, lowlander lungs must work harder to get extra oxygen. This accelerates water loss, even before you add a little healthy perspiration. The physical impact of high-altitude exertion cautions all of us to work at our own pace and rest when necessary. No one will be pushed past his or her limits -- the need to accomplish a goal does not preclude doing so safely and in an orderly manner.

If you haven't seen your doctor in the last five years, you will need to get your physician’s signature on the medical questionnaire. All participants must have a current tetanus shot.

Equipment and Clothing

Trip members are expected to furnish their own day pack -- comparable to a student’s bookbag, not a fanny pack. The Ranch will provide work tools. Bring and expect to carry at least three one-liter/quart water containers, your own supply of moleskin and bandages, sunscreen, insect repellent, and lip balm. Bring clothes and boots that are comfortable. Remember, this is not a fashion show -- bring clothes that are broken-in (but not worn out) and that can be easily layered for warmth and removed as the day's temperature increases. February temperatures in this area can range from 30 degrees at night to 75 degrees in the mid-afternoon. While we hope for warm, clear days, rain can sweep in. The only special item you must bring is a good pair of gloves. Gloves, like boots, serve best when broken-in early. Bedding will be provided for you.

Please avoid the temptation to be casual about necessary items -- come prepared. Because the Ranch is located in a remote area, once we have settled in, it will not be convenient to drive anywhere for necessities. Willcox is a small town with limited amenities.



  • Bock, Carl E. and Jane E., The View from Bald Mountain: Thirty years in an Arizona Grassland.
  • Lowe, Charles H., Arizona's Natural Environment.
  • Elmore, Francis H., Shrubs and Trees of the Southwest.
  • Leake, Dorothy Vandyke, Desert and Mountain Plants of the Southwest.
  • Peterson, Roger Tory, Peterson Field Guide to Western Birds.
  • Hait, Pam, Day Trips from Phoenix, Tucson, and Flagstaff.
  • Casey, Robert, Journey to the High Southwest, A Traveler's Guide.



Breeding diversity in southern Arizona riparian areas is higher than in all other habitats combined, and Western riparian areas contain the highest non-colonial bird breeding densities in North America. More than 400 species of birds have been recorded within the San Pedro River basin's major habitats. Nearly one-half of the United States' bird species frequent the area as they migrate. The tremendous importance of the San Pedro River system was established in 1988 when it was recognized as this country's first Riparian National Conservation area. The river is a 140-mile long desert oasis -- a dry San Pedro would mean no green corridor or birds migrating across the arid land of the Southwest. The consequences are hard to fathom. Careful conservation planning is necessary to help preserve the right kind of natural areas in just the right places in order to keep migratory corridors connected. Purchased by the Nature Conservancy in 1982, Muleshoe Ranch is one of the most biologically diverse desert riparian areas in the world.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.

While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.



Audrey Cullen has participated in numerous Sierra Club service trips at Muleshoe, she lives in Minneapolis, MN with her dog Molly and loves to be outside as much as possible.


Amy Odgers has been on multiple Sierra Club service trips as a volunteer, and most recently, as a cook and co-leader. She has participated in many service trips at the Muleshoe Ranch. Amy makes her home in Chicago with her husband and their two dogs.

Assistant Leader:

Charles Schulz

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