What is known today as the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (SPRNCA) encompasses two Mexican land grants dating back to 1827. These two grants were eventually purchased and consolidated into the Boquillas Land and Cattle Co., who sold their holdings to Tenneco. Tenneco planned to develop housing along the river but instead was convinced to trade with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for acreage of equal value in the Phoenix area. This allowed the BLM to take possession of the property in 1986. Some additional land has been acquired since that time through donations and purchases.
This property, which now consists of approximately 56,000 acres, stretches from the border with Mexico to St. David (about 40 miles), and extends roughly 1 mile on either side of the San Pedro River. It contains: the oldest evidence of the pre-historic Clovis Culture at two “mammoth kill sites”; the ruins of old stamp mills and the town-sites that supported them; ranch buildings which are still useable today; Indian rock-art sites; and the ruins of a Spanish presidio.
In 1987 a group of concerned citizens founded the Friends of the San Pedro River (FSPR). The sole purpose of this non-profit and non-political organization was, and still is, to support the BLM in its preservation and enhancement of this special area and to advocate for preservation of the natural and cultural resources within the SPRNCA
In 1988, the U.S. congress recognized the value of this parcel and declared it the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. This was the first “Riparian” NCA in the U.S. The SPRNCA was identified by The Nature Conservancy as the premier remaining riparian habitat in the Southwest and in 1996, the American Bird Conservancy designated it as the first Globally Important Bird Area (GIBA) in the United States. The San Pedro River is one of the last free-flowing rivers between Texas and California.
In 1989, the BLM and FSPR volunteers restored an old ranch house, located on Hwy 90 at the river, which was previously the home of ranch superintendents. In 2007 BLM restored the old school house at Fairbank. These two structures were turned into bookstore/gift shops and also serve as information centers. All profits from the bookstores and other fund raising activities of the FSPR are used to help BLM make the SPRNCA a better place for public visitation.
Today, people can enjoy seeing protected pre-historic sites dating back more than 13,000 years; restored historic buildings; preserved silver mill foundations; rock art sites; and signage giving informative data. Maintained trails allow easy access for hiking, walking, horseback riding and bicycling. Many trails are handicapped accessible. Benches are located along some trails. Picnic tables are located near the San Pedro House (some covered), and a large covered shelter is also located there. Picnic facilities are also provided at Fairbank. Pit toilets are available at most trailhead sites. All these amenities are available for your use at no charge.
The SPRNCA is home to the endangered Water Umbel plant and is good territory for the endangered Southwestern willow flycatcher and the western yellow-billed cuckoo. It is also a necessary rest area for several million migrating birds each year.
In addition to its many other activities, BLM has re-introduced beaver to the SPRNCA and is supporting a continuing effort to replace non-native plants with native vegetation.
Trash pick-up and fence mending take a lot of time and energy, as does monitoring of wildlife and plant communities. As you can see, the BLM is kept very busy and could not support all these activities and still stay within their budget. This is where the Friends are able to step in and assist with volunteer activities. FSPR volunteers offer walks for birders and nature lovers, hikes to historic locations within the SPRNCA, operate two bookstores, offer a great education program for local schools, and help with general maintenance and landscaping activities.
Come on down to the SPRNCA and see what we have done for you.