Saving the San Pedro River, Arizona

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14453A, Service/ Volunteer


  • Camp along the San Pedro River in southern Arizona
  • Work to preserve the San Pedro River from further destruction
  • Spend a day exploring places like Kartchner Caverns, Tombstone, the Huachuca


  • All meals
  • All tools needed for work
  • Arizona sunshine


DatesMar 9–15, 2014
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
more than 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 have
been transferred to agency partners to ensure permanent protection. Some of these lands on
the lower portion of the river are held awaiting transfer in the future to TNC partners, some are
managed as preserves, and some are held by others 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, a very important site for the endangered
Southwest Willow Flycatcher and it 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 over 100 years.

The San Pedro River has long been a conservation priority for the Sierra Club, The Nature
Conservancy, The Sky Island Alliance, and other conservation groups in Arizona and in the U.S.

The Project

This trip is designed to help The Nature Conservancy (TNC) improve properties currently owned
or managed by TNC. Work will include tasks such as removing fences or making fences wildlife friendly, building a San Pedro River Trail, removing invasive species, maintaining roadways, and creating or improving erosion control barriers.


You will meet the leader in Benson, AZ on the first day of the trip. You will then travel 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 on tasks such as those
outlined above. Wednesday will be taken as a day off and you are free to use that day to
explore 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. All
participants will be expected to help trip staff with cooking and cleanup on at least one day of
the trip.

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.

Additional gear recommendations will be sent to signed-up participants.

Trip Difficulty

This will be a moderately difficult week. Participants will be asked to use saws and other cutting
devices. The average temperatures this time of year will range from the 30s in the morning to
the 80s in the afternoon. Work will be performed at an altitude of 4,500 feet. You will need to be
prepared for this type of temperature change found in desert areas.

Equipment and Clothing

A good pair of working boots and gloves will be needed. A day pack and rain gear will be
needed. 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 History of the San Pedro River in Arizona:


The San Pedro River is under continuous threat from developments in Sierra Vista, AZ, and from mining and ranching in 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 help TNC in preserving the remaining flowing waters in the San Pedro River.

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.



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.


Ruth Lamdan


Leo McNeil

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