Arivaca Creek

A delightful walk under towering cottonwoods, following a stream course (mostly dry) in cottonwood/willow plant association

Type: Nature Trail
Length: 1.25 miles
Loop Trail? Yes
Allowed Uses: Dogs - On leash
Pedestrian - Walking/Hiking/Running
Wildlife Observation
Agency: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Entry Fee? No
Parking Fee? No

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Location: East portion of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in southern Arizona
States: Arizona
Counties: Pima County
Latitude: 31.59346   Longitude: -111.36373

Two miles west of the small community of Arivaca, Arizona, along the Arivaca-Sasabe Road at milepost 10.5


The trail meanders along the seasonally wet Arivaca Creek streamcourse, under giant cottonwoods and through lush vegetation which attracts songbirds, woodpeckers, owls, and coatis (racoon relatives). A short side trail leads from the stream bed to the 1870s-era adobe ranch house of Eva Wilbur-Cruce, who wrote about growing up here in "A Beautiful Cruel Country." A quarter-mile downstream from the trailhead, Mustang Trail branches off and provides a chance for a vigorous 5-mile round-trip hike to Mustang Saddle and then via switchbacks to the top of El Cerro, a small mountain. Mustang Trail has no shade and is best experienced in the cooler winter months. Along Arivaca Creek Trail in spring and summer, brilliant vermillion flycatchers flit among branches along the creek. The summer air is alive with calls from summer tanagers, yellow-breasted chat, cardinals and phainopeplas.
Arivaca Creek Trail is signicant ecologically because it preserves riparian (streamside) habitat. Arizona has lost more than 90% of its riparian habitat due to human-caused activities such as channelization, livestock grazing, development, and water table pumping. The shade, moisture, lush greenery and abundant insects attract a wide variety of bird life. In turn this makes Arivaca Creek Trail a destination for bird watchers. The trail along Arivaca Creek takes visitors through rare and valuable desert southwest wetland and riparian habitats, homes for listed endangered species, species of concern, and many other native plants and wildlife. Nearly 340 species of birds have been recorded at Buenos Aires NWR, many of them along Arivaca Creek. Several subtropical birds are occasionally seen at Arivaca Creek, at the northern edge of their range. Examples are the northern beardless tyrannulet, green kingfisher, and tropical and thick-billed kingbirds. Birders come to southeastern Arizona, including Arivaca Creek, to sight these subtropical specialties. Interpretive signs are located on a large kiosk in the parking lot, with 2 or 3 additional interpretive signs along the trail. The trailhead has one picnic table, and one bench is located along the trail.

Additional Details

Width: 48 inches.
Primary Surface: Soil
Secondary Surface: Soil

Average Grade: 0%
Elevation Low Point: 3,600
Elevation High Point: 3,700
Year Designated: 2005

Supporting Webpages and Documents

Website: Buenos Aires NWR

Contact Information

For more information and current conditions, contact the trail manager (listed below). For questions, suggestions, and corrections to information listed on the website, contact American Trails.

Bonnie Swarbrick

Trail Management:
Sally Gall
P.O. Box 109
Sasabe , AZ 85633 -0109
(520) 823-4251



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