The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (NCA) contains nearly 57,000 acres of public land in Cochise County, Arizona, between the international border and St. David, Arizona. The riparian area, where some 40 miles of the upper San Pedro River meanders, was designated by Congress as a Riparian National Conservation Area on November 18, 1988. The primary purpose for the special designation is to protect and enhance the desert riparian ecosystem, a rare remnant of what was once an extensive network of similar riparian systems throughout the American Southwest. One of the most important riparian areas in the United States, the San Pedro River runs through the Chihuahuan Desert and the Sonoran Desert in southeastern Arizona. The river’s stretch is home to more than 80 species of mammals, two native species and several introduced species of fish, more than 40 species of amphibians and reptiles, and 100 species of breeding birds. It also provides invaluable habitat for 250 species of migrant and wintering birds and contains archaeological sites representing the remains of human occupation from 13,000 years ago.
The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area is located 6 miles east of Sierra Vista, Arizona. From Tucson, take Interstate 10 east 40 miles to State Highway 90. Follow the highway south through Huachuca City to Fry Boulevard in Sierra Vista, AZ. Follow this street for six miles east until you reach the San Pedro House. The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area can also be accessed via Highway 80, near St. David; Highway 82 to Fairbank; Charleston Road to Millville Historic Townsite; Hereford Road to Hereford Bridge; and Highway 92 to Palominas.
The area provides opportunities for wildlife viewing including birdwatching, picnicking, primitive camping, pre-historic and historic site visiting, hunting, hiking, fishing, biking, horseback riding, guided hikes, interpretive site visitation, and weekend children’s programs. Parking, interpretive kiosks and trailheads are located at Fairbank, Murry Springs, San Pedro House, Land Corral, Terrenate, Millville and Hereford Bridge. Parking and trailheads are also available at Hereford Road, Charleston Road, Palominas, Terrenate, Escapule and Lehner.
The national conservation area features the intact remains of the Spanish Presidio Santa Cruz de Terrenante, a Spanish fortress marking the northern extension of New Spain into the New World. The Murray Springs Clovis Site is a significant archaeological resource that contains evidence of the earliest known people to inhabit North America. An interpretive trail leads visitors to the site. The area also features the ruins of the old mining town of Fairbank. The San Pedro House, a 1930’s-era converted ranch house, serves as a bookstore and visitor center.
Permits, Fee, Limitations
Overnight backcountry camping permits are required. Permit fees are $2 per person per night. Campfires are permitted only in designated areas. The permit fee is $2.00 per person per night, and camping is limited to seven consecutive nights in any one location, unless otherwise authorized. Day use throughout the NCA is free; no permit is required. Commercial operators are required to secure special authorization prior to their planned visit. Firearm use is permitted only for regulated hunting, and only in certain areas. A hunting permit from the Arizona Game and Fish is required. Contact BLM for specific information on hunting.
Wheelchair-accessible restrooms are available at the San Pedro House, and other accessible trails are under construction.
Camping and Lodging
Only backcountry camping is available, and a permit is required. Overnight camping is allowed in backcountry areas, but not in parking areas. Permits are required for overnight camping and are available seven days a week from the "self service pay stations" at all visitor parking areas. Lodging is available in Sierra Vista, Tombstone and Bisbee.
Food and Supplies
Food and supplies are available in the surrounding communities of Sierra Vista, Tombstone, Whetstone, and Bisbee (approximately 10 miles east), Hereford (within the San Pedro Riparian NCA), and Palominas (within the San Pedro Riparian NCA).
There is no first aid on-site. The nearest hospital is in Sierra Vista, AZ.
The San Pedro River is subject to seasonal flooding, and summer monsoons are common. Birdwatching is best in the spring and fall. Picnic facilities are available at Fairbank (within the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area) and at the San Pedro House. Visitors should call ahead for the schedule of guided walks, hikes and children’s programs. The San Pedro gift shop/bookstore is open from 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. daily. The region is a travel corridor for illegal immigrants traveling from Mexico. Visitors are asked to please report all suspected illegal activities to BLM or local law enforcement authorities and stay safe by avoiding contact with persons exhibiting suspicious behavior or engaged in dangerous activities.
San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area
Manager: Dennis Sylvia, Acting
1763 Paseo San Luis
Sierra Vista, AZ 85635-4611