Saving the San Pedro River

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 13350A, Service/ Volunteer


  • Base camp on the San Pedro River in southern Arizona
  • Work to preserve the San Pedro River from further destruction
  • Enjoy cool clear days and nights


  • All meals
  • All tools needed for work
  • Mexican dinner on Friday night


DatesDec 8–14, 2013
StaffCharles Schulz
Photo: Hal Malde / TNC

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Trip Overview

The Trip

Flowing northward for 140 miles from Mexico to the Gila River in central Arizona, the San Pedro is the last free-flowing river in the Southwest. This river supports riparian woodlands larger than those of the Colorado, Rio Grande, Gila, and Pecos rivers combined. The documented diversity of animals and plants that depend on this free-flowing river and its forests include over 400 bird species, 100 butterfly species, 83 mammal species, and 47 amphibian and reptile species. In recognition, the U.S. Congress created the San Pedro National Riparian Conservation area in 1988, which prohibits cattle grazing, mining, water diversion, and ORV use on a small section of this river.

Thousands of additional acres have been purchased by The Nature Conservancy and transferred to agency partners to ensure permanent protection. Thousands more acres are held in additional conservation easements. Some of these lands on the lower portion of the river are held awaiting transfer in the future, some are managed as preserves, and some are held by partners to satisfy a mitigation commitment and are managed by TNC for conservation.

The San Pedro River Preserve, at the bottom of the watershed near the confluence with the Gila River, manages several miles of riparian habitat, which is a very important site for the endangered Southwest Willow Flycatcher and also serves as a hatchery and grow-out facility for several endangered species of native fish. It may also be the most studied river anywhere in the U.S., with a long history of scientific inquiry and data collection that dates back more than 100 years. The San Pedro River has long been a conservation priority for Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy, The Sky Island Alliance, and other conservation groups in Arizona and throughout the U.S.

The Project

Help us establish a long-term campsite to be used by Sierra Club and other groups as they work with The Nature Conservancy to protect and preserve the last free-flowing stream in southern Arizona.


You will meet the leader in Benson, AZ on the first day of the trip. You will then travel together to the Three Links Ranch, a Nature Conservancy property on the San Pedro River, where you will set up a base camp. Four of the next five days will be spent working to improve the base camp area. Wednesday will be taken as a day off, and you are free to use that day exploring the surrounding area.



Getting There

Information for meeting times and places will be provided to participants after they sign up for this trip.

Accommodations and Food

All meals will be included from the evening of the first day through breakfast on the last day. This includes a celebratory dinner in Benson, AZ on the last evening.

Accommodations will be basic. You will need to bring a tent, sleeping bag, and pad. Shower facilities will be limited. Cooking and eating will be outside. The weather can be cool and wet this time of year, so good wet gear is essential.

Trip Difficulty

This will be a moderately difficult week. Participants will be asked to use saws and other cutting devices. Clearing brush and restoring the access road will be part of the tasks. Work will be performed at an altitude of 4,500’.

Equipment and Clothing

A good pair of working boots and gloves will be needed, as will a day pack and rain gear. A more detailed equipment list will be provided to signed up members.


Taylor, Mary, A Barebones Accounting of Some Significant Happenings along the San Pedro River. 1995. Unpublished manuscript. Available online at:


The San Pedro River is under continuous threat from developments in Sierra Vista, AZ and areas of Mexico where the river rises. The Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, and other conservation groups are fighting to stop further development and to preserve this critical flyway. The Nature Conservancy has bought land along the river and also manages properties for others who have acquired lands on the river. Our work will establish a base camp on Nature Conservancy property that will be used by various groups to preserve this unique and rare riparian habitat in southern Arizona.



Charlie Schulz has lived in the Southwest for more than 40 years and has hiked extensively in Arizona, Europe, and Mexico. Since retiring, hiking has become an even more important part of his day, making him a useful resource for information on hiking in the Southwest. He has participated in numerous Sierra Club service trips in the Southwest.

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