|Sycamore Canyon - Goodding Research Natural Area|
Five miles south of Ruby Road, rugged Sycamore Canyon leads to the Mexican border. The canyon features steep slopes, rugged cliffs, and pinnacles that tower over 200 feet above the canyon floor. The canyon is lined in part by Arizona sycamore trees; oak woodlands in the northern end gradually giv...
Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge
|Description: A landscape of long, sweeping vistas of rippling grasslands flanked by mountains and their everchanging colors and shadows mark the Buenos Aires Refuge in the Altar Valley. Majestic Baboquivari Peak, an ancient volcano that is sacred to the Tohono O’odham Nation, dominates the western mountains edging the refuge. This is one of the best places in Arizona to see open grassland and natural landscapes with minimal marks of human activity.
There are three refuge units, with different habitat types. Most of the area is semi-desert grassland; on the east end are several riparian areas, including Arivaca Cienega and Arivaca Creek. On the west end is Brown Canyon, where a sycamore-lined stream flows through oak woodlands.
Spring flowers are best in April, fall flowers in September and October. The grasslands are green from mid-July to mid-September. The grassland section of the refuge is rich in ranch history, with buildings and structures from the 1880s.
Wildlife to Watch: This refuge was established to provide habitat for the masked bobwhite which was reintroduced here. It is the only American site for this quail, and the only U.S. refuge where four species of quail are found, including Gambel’s, scaled, and Montezuma.
Birding is good year-round, with abundance and diversity highest in spring and summer. Birds of prey include golden eagle, prairie falcon, crested caracara, Swainson’s hawk, western screech-owl, and long-eared owl. Wintering sparrows include lark, vesper, white-crowned, chipping, and Brewer’s, and during the summer monsoon period, the various grasslands are filled with the songs of Botteri’s, Cassin’s, rufous-winged, rufous-crowned, lark, and grasshopper sparrows. Large flocks of lark buntings also winter on the refuge. Birders come to Brown Canyon to seek out the Montezuma quail, black-capped gnatcatcher, sulphur-bellied flycatcher, and a variety of hummingbirds. Many riparian species are at some of the northernmost extension of their subtropical range, such as the gray hawk, buff-colored nightjar, rose-throated becard, tropical and thick-billed kingbirds, and green kingfisher.
Mule deer and pronghorn are best seen in the headquarters section along the entrance road or Pronghorn Drive. Other species unique to North American prairies are found here, including antelope jackrabbit, loggerhead shrike, and Great Plains narrow-mouthed toad.
Special Tips: Most of the refuge can be visited 24 hours a day. Arivaca Cienega and Arivaca Creek Trail are open daylight hours only. Brown Canyon visits are by guided walks and workshops only and require reservations; call for rates and reservations for hikes and overnight nature workshops. The headquarters visitor center provides exhibits, video, literature, and staff or volunteers 7 days a week. Lectures and slide programs can be arranged for groups.
Other Activities: Arivaca Cienega Trail is a 1-1/4 mile accessible loop over a boardwalk and path, with opportunities to see abundant bird life in a rare desert wetland. It includes two viewing decks, one with telescopes. Trailhead is ¼ mile east of Arivaca. Pronghorn Drive, a self-guided auto tour loop, circles 10 miles through open grassland with sweeping views of the Altar Valley. Follow signs off the entry road just south of headquarters.
Arivaca Creek Trail meanders one mile along the seasonal stream beneath towering cottonwoods. Trailhead is 2 miles west of Arivaca.
Mustang Trail is a 5-mile loop route that branches off the Arivaca Creek Trail, ¼ mile downstream from the trailhead. The rugged trail climbs El Cerro, a small mountain with steep sections at the top.
Arch Trail in Brown Canyon, accessible by guided hike only, is a 4 ½ mile round trip, easy walk. It follows a sycamore-lined stream to a 47-foot high natural rock arch.
Many of the back roads in the southeast and northeast grasslands can also be hiked.
Ownership: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Size: 117,342 acres
Closest Town: Arivaca
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: