There’s something irresistible about a streak of luxurious trees snaking across a dry valley. The San Pedro River in Arizona offers a prime example of this desert aesthetic, and it calls out to visitors even more when they realize the importance of the place.
The San Pedro is one of the last rivers standing in the Southwest, so to speak, still undammed and unregulated. The river naturally collects runoff from the surrounding mountains – ranges with great names like the Dragoon, Mustang and Whetstone – on the way north from its Mexican headwaters. The flow supports a continuous 40-mile long forest of cottonwoods and willows.
The river provides some the continent’s best habitat for birds as it snakes through the 57,000 acre San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. Some species use it the way we might use an interstate highway - just passing through. Others call the trees that line the bank home for a part or all of the year. Hummingbirds, flycatchers, tanagers and raptors can be found in abundance here, along with the enthusiasts who travel from around the globe to catch a glimpse.
Story by Adam Milnor, BLM Arizona; photos by Bob Wick, BLM