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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Southern Arizona Travelogue

Ramsey Canyon Preserve

Tuesday we made the most wonderful visit to The Nature Conservancy’s Ramsey Canyon Preserve! From the pamphlet I picked up, here’s a description of the incredibility of the exceptionally diverse environment:
Ramsey Canyon, located within the Upper San Pedro River Basin – one of the Last Great Places! – in southeastern Arizona, is renowned for its outstanding scenic beauty and the diversity of its plant and animal life. This diversity—including such highlights as 15 species of hummingbirds—is the result of a unique interplay of geology, biogeography, topography, and climate.

Southeastern Arizona is an ecological crossroads, where habitats and species from the Sierra Madre of Mexico, the Rocky Mountains, and the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts all can be found. The abrupt rise of mountains like the Huachuca from the surrounding arid grasslands creates "sky islands" harboring rare species and communities of plants and animals. This combination of factors gives Ramsey Canyon Preserve its tremendous variety of plant and animal life, including such southwestern specialties as the lemon lily, ridge-nosed rattlesnake, desert long-nosed bat, elegant trogon, and beryline and white-eared hummingbirds.

A spring-fed stream, northeast orientation, and high canyon walls provide Ramsey Canyon with a moist, cool environment unusual in the desert Southwest. Water-loving plants such as sycamores, maples, and columbines line the banks of Ramsey Creek, often growing within a few feet of cacti, yucca, and agave. Communities ranging from semi-desert grassland to pine-fir forest are found within the vicinity of Ramsey Canyon Preserve.
The Town of Patagonia

On our way to the Patagonia-Sonoíta Creek Preserve, we drove through and stopped to visit the historic tourist town of Patagonia, with some of Patagonia’s colorfully-storefronted shops vending antiques, others retailing Mexican artifacts, clothing and decorative items, the stores all laid down amidst the obligatory town offices and a delightful flurry of multihued old frame houses. On the way back to Tucson from Sonoíta Creek Preserve, we drove past the site of the now-former Empire Ranch, where they filmed most of the old-time television Westerns.

Patagonia-Sonoíta Creek Preserve

Wednesday we took another trip, this one to Sonoíta Creek Preserve, another Nature Conservancy site. Here’s a description from the brochure:
In a verdant floodplain valley between the Patagonia and Sierra-Rita Mountains of southeastern Arizona, within the watershed of Sonoíta Creek, lie some of the richest of the remaining riparian (streamside) habitat in the region. One of a few remaining permanent streams, it provides for a wide array of diverse species from endangered fishes to butterflies and birds. Joseph Wood Krutch, the distinguished American naturalist, once noted that “no other area in Arizona is more deserving of preservation” than Sonoíta Creek. This site contains the first two miles of permanent flow of Sonoíta Creek and the floodplains adjacent to the stream. This site contains very high biodiversity values that are primarily focused on the riparian habitat along Sonoíta Creek very high headwaters that are primarily found in the riparian habitats along Sonoíta Creek. As the first project for The Nature Conservancy in Arizona, it captured much of the biological diversity associated with these habitat types. The watershed is mostly undeveloped and its natural processes of flooding are mostly intact and functioning.

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