Wednesday, December 4, 2013
After visiting the ghost town of Fairbank, Arizona, I hiked a four mile trail along the San Pedro River. The weather was cool with partly cloudy skies making for excellent hiking conditions. My dog and I hiked along the old road bed of the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad seeing the remains of the Grand Central Mill and the Fairbanks cemetery (more information on next post). After two miles the trail turned and followed the river back to Highway 82. Along the river I saw two Cooper's hawks and a number of small birds. This trail is easy to follow with minimal elevation gain. Dog owners need to watch out for snakes during the summer and thorns which will embed themselves into paws and fir causing irritation. To see more wildlife I need to hike early in the morning.
Ecology and History: The San Pedro flows north from the Mexico border to the Gila River at Winkelman. Because it flows year-round the river provides critical habitat for both flora and fauna. Wildlife include White-tailed deer, Javelina, Bobcat and Ring-tailed cats. Throughout the year over 350 bird species use this corridor including the Vermillion flycatcher and Yellow-billed cuckoo making the San Pedro one of the best birding areas in the United States. Tree species include Cottonwood, Hackbury, Willow and Arizona walnut. In 1988 Congress created the San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area to insure that 40 miles of riparian habitat be protected for future generations. (Information from 100 hikes in Arizona by Scott Warren).
The San Pedro Valley also has a rich history. Along the river are the ruins for six mills which processed ore from the mines in nearby Tombstone, Arizona. The mills needed water from the river to operate the huge stamps used to crush the rock. Today these mills are long gone but an explorer could find their locations in the valley.