Birding Hotspot: Ramsey Canyon Preserve, AZ

Managed by the Nature Conservancy, 380-acre Ramsey Canyon Preserve, located within the Upper San Pedro River Basin in southeastern Arizona, is renowned for its outstanding scenic beauty and the diversity of its plant and animal life.

Acorn woodpecker, one of more than 170 species of birds located in Ramsey Canyon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Known worldwide as a birding hotspot, it is home to more than 400 species of plants and more than 170 species of birds.

Southeastern Arizona is an ecological crossroads, where the Sierra Madre of Mexico, the Rocky Mountains, and the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts all come together. The abrupt rise of mountains like the Huachucas from the surrounding arid grasslands creates “sky islands” harboring rare species and communities of plants and animals. This combination of factors gives Ramsey Canyon Preserve its tremendous variety of plant and animal life.

A spring-fed stream, northeast orientation, and high canyon walls provide Ramsey Canyon with a moist, cool environment unusual in the Desert Southwest. Water-loving plants such as sycamores, maples, and columbines line the banks of Ramsey Creek, often growing within a few feet of cacti, yucca, and agaves. Communities ranging from semi-desert grassland to pine-fir forest are found within the vicinity of Ramsey Canyon Preserve.

The rare stream-fed sycamore-maple riparian corridor provides a lush contrast to the desert highlands at the base of the mountains.

The featured jewels of this pristine habitat are the 14 species of hummingbirds that congregate here from spring through autumn.

The Mexican Jay is frequently sighted in the canyons south of Sierra Vista. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The diverse wildlife and habitats of Ramsey Canyon may be viewed from the Hamburg Trail. This open-ended route parallels Ramsey Creek through the preserve before climbing 500 feet in a half-mile series of steep switchbacks. These lead to a scenic overlook in the Coronado National Forest one mile from the preserve headquarters. From the overlook, the trail continues upstream and enters the Miller Peak Wilderness Area where it joins other trails.

Planning Your Visit
Best months for birding at the preserve are March through September. Spring weather is unpredictable, though usually cool and dry. Early summer is generally dry and warm. In July and August, brief afternoon rainstorms can be a daily occurrence. Fall days are cool and bright. Occasional snows from late November through late March bring a dramatic change in the scenery. On average, temperatures at the preserve are 10-15 degrees cooler than those in Tucson.

Elevation: 5,525 feet

Directions: Take Highway 92 south from Sierra Vista for six miles and turn right on
Ramsey Canyon Road. The preserve is at the end of Ramsey Canyon Road, four miles west of the highway.

A surprise visitor greets me at the top of Hamburg Trail, following a climb of 500 feet in a half-mile. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Facilities: Preserve headquarters include visitor parking, a nature center with bookstore and a hummingbird observation area located at the preserve entrance. Here, visitors may learn about the preserve and its wild residents, the Upper San Pedro River Program, and The Nature Conservancy by viewing interpretive exhibits, shopping in the bookstore, or simply enjoying the beauty of the lower canyon.

Parking: Preserve parking is limited to 23 spaces. These spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no parking along the road below the preserve.
No buses, trailers, or large RV’s (over 18 feet) can be accommodated in the narrow canyon.

Hours
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
September-February: Closed Tuesdays/Wednesdays
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s

Fees: $5.00 per person. Conservancy members and Cochise County residents, $3.00 per person. Children under 16, free.
Free admission the first Saturday of every month. During November, December, and January, a paid preserve admission is good for two rather than the usual one week.
Annual passes available.
Group visits require prior arrangements.

Gear: Sturdy shoes, hat, sunscreen, binoculars, camera, and plenty of water.

Please note: Pets are prohibited in the preserve.

Additional information: (520) 378-2785

Worth Pondering…
What we see depends mainly on what we look for.
—Sir John Lubbock

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