Known as one of the most important riparian forest areas in all of the United States, days of exploration and activities await you at the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. Located between the border of Mexico and the small town of St David, Arizona, there are nearly 54,000 acres available for visitors to admire. The main attraction to this BLM area is the San Pedro River, which flows for around 40 miles through this untouched wilderness.
This riparian zone is quite unique, as it looks like a typical desert. However, the signs of life are very obvious near the river. There are thousands of animals that survive thanks to the river, including 14 different fish species, 100 bird species, and over 80 mammals. This same river was also the reason why humans could inhabit the area thousands of years ago. Proof of human life is maintained over multiple archeological sites within the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.
There are many great activities to enjoy for visitors of all ages to the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. There are ghost towns to explore, hikes to participate in, hunting to do, and a visitor center to peruse. You can also make use of free camping since it is BLM land if you don't mind dry camping. Whether you are visiting for the day or want to spend a considerable amount of time in the area, San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area will provide you with memories that will last a lifetime.
While there is no official entrance to the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, most visitors use San Pedro House (also known as the visitor center) as their first point of contact on their adventure. Located east of Sierra Vista, this city has a population of around 40,000 people and will be the perfect place to pick up any supplies or amenities you may need to visit before your trip into the BLM land.
The majority of the roads at San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area are dirt. Although they should be well maintained, it's still wise to drive at slow speeds in case you hit a pothole that could really ruin your trip. There will also be limited resources available if you decide to go deep into the 54,000 odd acres that encompass the area, so make sure to take more than enough food and drink to avoid any unnecessary disasters. Most of the roads follow the river, so if you are looking to check out the greater wilderness area you will have to leave your RV behind and put on your hiking shoes or bust out your mountain bike.
There is one main parking area at San Pedro House, but you can also park throughout the rest of the BLM land.
Located within the city of Sierra Vista, there is a private RV park that you could also call home during your visit to San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. This gated park is only five miles from San Pedro House and is a mixture of permanent and traveling residents.
There are plenty of great amenities at this private RV park, including 30 and 50 amp electrical hookups, multiple shaded areas, and you are given a key to come and go as you please from the park. Other campground wide amenities include two pools (one of which is indoors), free WiFi, free cable, a spa, laundry facilities, a nine-hole minigolf course, and a shuffleboard course.
Reservations are recommended before your stay and can be made by calling the park office during normal business hours or a mobile number on weekends after 4:00 PM. These numbers can be found online.
For RV campers looking for more amenities, you do have the option to head around 40 miles north of San Pedro House to the Benson KOA. This campground has sites available for RVs that are up to 65 feet in length and will be the place to stay if you are looking for electric, water, and sewer hookups.
There are over 70 sites for you to choose from at Benson KOA and the campground is full of great amenities to enhance your stay. These include laundry facilities, restrooms, showers, a general store, fire rings, a playground, water collection points, a mini-golf course, koi pond, swimming pool, and a hot tub. Pets can also make use of the pet walk area and you should be able to get cell phone reception on all of the major providers.
The Benson KOA is open all year round and reservations can be made online prior to arrival. Please note that the roads inside the campground are quite tight, so if you have a larger rig you will need to take it slow when navigating it.
San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area is full of great places that offer free dry camping thanks to all of it being on BLM land. While there are no real developed campsites within the area, the Miller Backcountry Campsite could be a great place for you to stay if you want to try backcountry camping. The campsite is near one of the more popular mountain biking trails and features plenty of room to pitch a tent and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
There are no water collection points, electrical hookups, or picnic tables in the area, but you will be able to make use of one vault toilet when nature calls. During the wintertime, the temperatures can get quite cold, so if you are planning to camp during this season, remember to bring a warm sleeping bag and stock up on thermal clothing. The Miller Backcountry Campsite is available on a first-come, first-serve basis all year round.
Visitors to San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area who are keen photographers need to make the most of the opportunity to snap some pics of Arizona's only undammed river. Flowing all year round, the river will be the perfect backdrop for any photos that you want to take of this diverse riparian environment.
You also have the chance to take some pics at the ghost town and historical sites, and there are no restrictions on photography anywhere within the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.
Winter is the best time of year for those who want to get out and do some wilderness hiking. There are dozens of miles for you to explore and many different trailheads that are located throughout the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.
One of the more popular sections is the River Trail, located between the ghost town of Fairbank and Charleston Road. If there has been a high rainfall in the area, some of the trails may be flooded, so make sure to check the weather conditions before you hike.
Bird lovers should be very excited to visit the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area as there are over 200 bird species that either call the area home or visit it throughout the year.
The bird populations are mostly found near the river as this is the main feeding and drinking area within the wilderness. Some of the species that you may be able to spot include osprey and yellow warblers. No matter the time of year that you visit, take in the solitude and listen to the birds singing songs.
During your visit to San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, you must take the chance to see a historical ghost town located within its landmass.
Fairbank was a town first settled in 1881 that became a very important through-point to Tombstone, which was one of the largest cities in the western area of the United States during this time. There were many shops open in Fairbank during its heydey, including a bank. After Tombstone was closed due to flooding the town slowly because deserted. There are many buildings to check out, including a restored schoolhouse that serves as the information center.
The Friends of the San Pedro River are also gracious enough to offer guided walks on Saturday mornings for visitors to San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. The walk will take you down to the river where you will learn more about its history and the animals that depend on it.
If you are interested in learning more about birds, in particular, there are also guided birding walks held throughout the year. Check out their website before your trip to make sure that these great activities are still planned.
The first stop on your RV getaway to San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area should be the San Pedro House Visitor Center. Located near Sierra Vista, San Pedro House Visitor Center is a 1930s converted ranch that is the main point of contact for this wilderness area.
Staffed by the Friends of the San Pedro River not-for-profit, these locals will be able to answer any questions you may have about the area and give you some tips to further help with your visit. There is also a small book store and gift shop within San Pedro House featuring items relevant to the area.