Hiking Along The San Pedro Riverby Jim Gressinger on Jan. 15, 2013, under Day/Weekend Adventures, Environment and Ecology, Hiking, Petroglyphs, Southern Arizona Birding
Dan Starr is a music teacher and avid hiker who lives in Tucson. As I cannot yet walk more than .3 miles, I asked Dan to share his experience hiking along the San Pedro River, one of the last remaining year-round, free-flowing rivers in Arizona. A few dedicated conservationists known as Friends of the San Pedro River have managed to preserve 57,000 acres for the rest of us to enjoy. Here you will find myriad trails, dozens of bird species, a ghost town, and archeological sites.
The photographs of this riparian area are by Francie Hills, a retired teacher from New Hampshire now living in Sierra Vista. We will have a slideshow of some of her other photos on SouthernArizonaGuide.com in a few days.
During the last month of 2012 I stayed a few nights in Sierra Vista. I had two reasons for going: (1) to figure out how I could teach music to more students and (2) check out that area. Naturally in order to achieve my second purpose I took a full day trip to the San Pedro River.
My first stop was “The San Pedro House” at the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. Travel on Arizona Highway 90 from Sierra Vista a few miles and you’ll see it just before you cross the San Pedro River. I arrived early and the visitor center was just opening. Nevertheless, I was invited by a nice docent to go along with a tour group at 9 AM. Being more of a solitary person (and hoping to get in some valuable “thinking time”) I declined but was able to stock up on free maps and literature. I gave myself what one of my sheets called a “Self-Guided Tour.”
There are many, many trails around this part of the world. I specifically asked my new friend about “illegal activity” and was told there wasn’t much at that point. I surely didn’t want a confrontation! Being reassured, I took a trail down to the water and then headed farther into the US along the river itself. Each point of interest was posted and agreed fully with the numbers on my “self-guided tour” map.
While I was hiking, I was reading some other flyers and discovered something else interesting nearby – The Murray Springs Clovis Site. Archeology and anthropology have always interested me so when my hike was done, I got back into my vehicle and went closer to Sierra Vista and then turned north onto Moson Road to this site. I loved this place, complete with the varying trails and explanatory plaques. I also trekked along the old railroad bed quite a ways.
Getting back in my truck, I took Moson Road further north to it’s intersection with the Charleston Road, turned right and drove a few miles ‘till I got back to the San Pedro River. Armed with my knowledge from my San Pedro House visit, I knew where to go to get to the trailhead. This trail doesn’t actually go to Charleston. That is on the west side of the river and it’s “discouraged” by the BLM. Instead, the trail goes to two places, down to some fairly decent (remember I’m from Tucson and have seen much better) rock art and also to the mills that supported Charleston. Unfortunately, there is not much left of these other than walls, but there are some great explanatory plaques.
I hiked both trails and checked out what there was to see at each. I knew from other readings that Charleston was essentially leveled by a huge earthquake in 1887 (the last such around these parts, luckily!). Personally, I was much more interested in the rock art. Of course, I just had to go down to the river and found a seldom used trail to do that. Along the river I came across a site where some intrepid camper had created a lean-to and obviously lived on the river bank.
Well, my day was done. I had started early and the sun was already descending. I had covered quite a few miles and headed back to the Sierra Vista motel in my truck.