Table of Contents

Returning Water to the San Pedro River

Innovative projects are helping to increase the flow of water in one of the longest undammed rivers in the Southwest.

After dropping for decades, groundwater levels in some areas along the upper San Pedro River are rising. The reason: An innovative series of water replenishment projects capable of increasing flows in one of southern Arizona’s last flowing rivers.

The Nature Conservancy and its partners in the Cochise Conservation and Recharge Network seem to have found a formula that works for the river and surrounding local communities.

The San Pedro River flows north out of Sonora, Mexico for about 150 miles to its convergence with the Gila River.

San Pedro River The San Pedro River flows north out of Sonora, Mexico for about 150 miles to its convergence with the Gila River. © Adriel Heisey

This is a whole new way to manage our water in a way that meets the needs of people and nature. This is a template for the West.

Cochise County Supervisor and an early supporter of this effort.

Returning 2 Billion Gallons to the San Pedro

The regional network of projects encompasses 6,344 acres of lands along about 25 miles of the upper river running through the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. The Conservancy assisted with the acquisition of much of these lands with funding from the U.S. Army’s Compatible Use Buffer Program. Cochise County, the Hereford Natural Resource Conservation District and the City of Sierra Vista supported the design and construction of the projects.

The network projects help the river in two ways. First, the lands are protected from future groundwater pumping, avoiding an estimated 1 billion gallons per year of groundwater pumping that used to occur. Second, three projects now in operation are capturing about 1 billion gallons of stormwater and effluent and putting it back into the underground aquifer each year. That’s 2 billion gallons of groundwater a year.

a water detention basin

The Detention Basin Constructed in 2014, the Palominas Recharge facility captures stormwater and funnels it underground where it replenishes the aquifer feeding the San Pedro River. © Holly Richter/TNC

Mapping Water Levels and Managing Stormwater

The San Pedro mapping effort the Conservancy coordinates every year has helped determine where the recharge facilities could be most effective.

Additional stormwater and effluent recharge projects are being planned, including a first-of-its-kind facility to recharge excess water flooding off the City of Sierra Vista’s streets, sidewalks and other hard surfaces.

“These San Pedro projects are unique in their focus of supporting both rural communities and one of the last large desert rivers,” said Holly Richter, water projects director for The Nature Conservancy. “The benefits to the groundwater will be as important for water users on wells, as it will be for the river.”

closeup of a medium-sized brown furry animal

Coatimundi or coatis for short, are found in Arizona in wooded areas such as Ramsey Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains. © Henry Johnson

The San Pedro River

The San Pedro River, one of two Arizona rivers that flow north from Mexico into Arizona, is a hot spot for migrating birds and provides habitat for unique wildlife of the northern Mexico and southern Arizona region including jaguar, coatimundi, gray hawk and ringtailed cat. The San Pedro is a tributary of the Gila River, and both are within the Colorado River Basin.

Returning Water to the San Pedro River

Innovative projects are helping to increase the flow of water in one of the longest undammed rivers in the Southwest.

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After dropping for decades, groundwater levels in some areas along the upper San Pedro River are rising. The reason: An innovative series of water replenishment projects capable of increasing flows in one of southern Arizona’s last flowing rivers.

The Nature Conservancy and its partners in the Cochise Conservation and Recharge Network seem to have found a formula that works for the river and surrounding local communities.

The San Pedro River flows north out of Sonora, Mexico for about 150 miles to its convergence with the Gila River.

San Pedro River The San Pedro River flows north out of Sonora, Mexico for about 150 miles to its convergence with the Gila River. © Adriel Heisey

This is a whole new way to manage our water in a way that meets the needs of people and nature. This is a template for the West.

Cochise County Supervisor and an early supporter of this effort.

Returning 2 Billion Gallons to the San Pedro

The regional network of projects encompasses 6,344 acres of lands along about 25 miles of the upper river running through the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. The Conservancy assisted with the acquisition of much of these lands with funding from the U.S. Army’s Compatible Use Buffer Program. Cochise County, the Hereford Natural Resource Conservation District and the City of Sierra Vista supported the design and construction of the projects.

The network projects help the river in two ways. First, the lands are protected from future groundwater pumping, avoiding an estimated 1 billion gallons per year of groundwater pumping that used to occur. Second, three projects now in operation are capturing about 1 billion gallons of stormwater and effluent and putting it back into the underground aquifer each year. That’s 2 billion gallons of groundwater a year.

a water detention basin

The Detention Basin Constructed in 2014, the Palominas Recharge facility captures stormwater and funnels it underground where it replenishes the aquifer feeding the San Pedro River. © Holly Richter/TNC

Mapping Water Levels and Managing Stormwater

The San Pedro mapping effort the Conservancy coordinates every year has helped determine where the recharge facilities could be most effective.

Additional stormwater and effluent recharge projects are being planned, including a first-of-its-kind facility to recharge excess water flooding off the City of Sierra Vista’s streets, sidewalks and other hard surfaces.

“These San Pedro projects are unique in their focus of supporting both rural communities and one of the last large desert rivers,” said Holly Richter, water projects director for The Nature Conservancy. “The benefits to the groundwater will be as important for water users on wells, as it will be for the river.”

closeup of a medium-sized brown furry animal

Coatimundi or coatis for short, are found in Arizona in wooded areas such as Ramsey Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains. © Henry Johnson

The San Pedro River

The San Pedro River, one of two Arizona rivers that flow north from Mexico into Arizona, is a hot spot for migrating birds and provides habitat for unique wildlife of the northern Mexico and southern Arizona region including jaguar, coatimundi, gray hawk and ringtailed cat. The San Pedro is a tributary of the Gila River, and both are within the Colorado River Basin.

Where to Ride Like a Local

Brown Canyon-Goat Trail-Old Man Brown Mountain Bike Ride

The local favorite. A little climb, a fun downhill. It doesn’t get old and it’s the staple of the Wednesday Night Ride.

From the Cherokee parking lot, all of the trails to the east as well as the first few miles to the west are very beginner friendly. Once you start up into the trees to the west, your fitness and skill levels should be more intermediate. A nice thing about Brown is you can always turn around and almost coast back downhill to the start.

The ride map and gps files include 2 laps of the loop and some side trails equaling 16.5 miles and twice the elevation but you can do the outer loop that’s most common. These side trails are marked in black on the map below.

Popular Strava segments:
Brown Canyon Climb
BaeBee Headz Yo!
Trough to the Y

Cooper Loop Mountain Bike Ride

Cooper Loop

MTB
10 miles
1540 ft elevation

Intermediate Skills
Excellent Fitness
Starts at Miller Canyon Lower Lot

Cooper Loop is most commonly ridden counter-clockwise. It consists of Perimeter Trail, Carr Canyon Road, Clark Springs Trail, John Cooper Trail and the Miller Canyon descent. Most riders prefer to start at the beginning of Perimeter Trail which is considered the most challenging part of the ride. This also means you finish the ride with the Miller Canyon descent, arguably the best part of the ride.

On Clark Springs, then Cooper Trail there are two very sharp left turns, almost full U-turns to watch for. They can be easy to miss even though they’re marked. The first is at mile 6.35 and leads into the Cooper Switchbacks. The second is at mile 7.6 and drops to the Miller Canyon upper parking lot.

Ride options include starting from the lower parking lot on Carr Canyon Rd, (mile 3.7 on the map) and if you’re really ambitious, continue up to the top of Carr Canyon Rd, then descend back down to the Clark Springs Trail to continue the loop.

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Popular Strava segments:
Perimeter First Climb
Carr Climb Lot to Trl Head
Going Down

Wren Arena Mountain Bike Ride

Wren Arena

MTB
6.7 miles
627 ft elevation

Beginner/Intermediate Skills
Intermediate Fitness
Starts at Wren Arena

*Ft. Huachuca pass required.

Wren Arena is the site of Ft. Huachuca’s Equestrian area but also the site of the NICA High School Mountain Biking Race Course. It was also an MBAA course in past years.

Most of Wren is beginner friendly with the exception of the Marshall Ridge Climb (marked in black on the map below) and the west side being more intermediate.

The ride map and gps files include 1 lap with Marshall Ridge included followed by 2 laps of the NICA HS2016 course and 1 lap of the shorter Middle School course for a total of 16.5 miles.

Popular Strava segments:
NICA HS2016
Let it FLOW .
2014 MBAA Foray-Coyote Lap

Hunter Canyon Mountain Bike Ride

Hunter Canyon

MTB
~17 miles of trails
2541 ft elevation

Beginner/Intermediate Skills
Intermediate Fitness
Starts at Hunter Canyon

Hunter Canyon offers a network of trails with something for everyone. There’s definitely some climbing to be had. You’ll find fast, flowy downhills, tight twisty downhills and a good share of well groomed, dry creekbed trails.

Because of the variety and layout of the trails, we’ve compiled 3 separate rides, each giving a taste of a section of trails. Combine all three into one long ride or do them separately. Between them, they’ll give you a taste of what Hunter has to offer. Click the Hunter 1, Hunter 2 and Hunter 3 sections at the bottom of the map to see them.

Strava Route Note: Strava’s route tool does not do well on Hunter. It routes to the roads, not the trails the route is based on. The better option is to either load the gpx file onto your device or use one of the Ride With GPS files olong with their app.

Popular Strava segments:
Orion UP
soul crusher
Red Barchetta

Arizona Trail Mountain Bike Ride

Arizona Trail

MTB
19-25 miles
1300-2100 ft elevation

Beginner/Intermediate Skills
Beginner/Intermediate Fitness
Starts at Sahuarita Rd or Three Bridges

So it’s not local but many locals like to make the 1 hour drive because it’s a great area to ride.

There are 2 rides listed below. The AZT-Sahuarita towards Pistol Hill ride starts at Sahuarita Rd and Hwy 83 and is the most popular of the two. It’s mostly beginner friendly and as an out and back, you can turn around whenever you’re ready. Most people ride it about 2-3 miles past Three Bridges.

The Three Bridges-Rincon Creek-AZT section is more intermediate and for those who want to venture further out. You’ll find more climbing and a bit more technical features but again, as an out and back, you can turn around when you’re ready.

Popular Strava segments:
I-10 Gate to Old Soniota Hwy
Three Bridges to Top of Hill
Pistol Hill to Three Bridges

McKenzie Ranch Mountain Bike Ride

McKenzie Ranch

MTB
10 miles per lap
654 ft elevation per lap

Beginner Skills
Beginner/Intermediate Fitness
Starts at McKenzie Ranch

McKenzie Ranch is a 1,700 acre open space park on the far east side of Pima County in the Cienega Creek Preserve. Like the Arizona Trail, it’s about an hour’s drive from Sierra Vista and many locals make a couple of trips each year, typically in the fall, winter or spring.

The trail system consists of two loops totaling about 10 miles and is purpose built for mountain biking. It is very beginner friendly with virtually no technical features. The climbs are gradual and the downhills are fast and flowy. This route includes 2 laps.

There are no services so take plenty of food and water. Weekends can be a little crowded but the course is one-way (clockwise) so it accommodates more people than many places.

Popular Strava segments:
McKenzie Ranch Lap
McK Ranch Southern comfort
McKenzie Ranch The Long Way

Road Rides

Coronado National Memorial Bicycle Road Ride

Coronado

Road

It’s as easy as you make it. Cruise along at a social pace or hammer it hard. Stop at the Coronado National Memorial Visitor’s Center for a bathroom break or water. The turnaround is at the end of the pavement but if you’re not shy of washboard gravel and dirt, continue to the top of Montezuma Pass for some nice views.

Add the Cross climb at mile 24 on the way back for a steep challenge. Take a left on Stone Ridge Rd, right on Prince Placer Rd. Its marked in black on the map below and included in the gps files.

Popular Strava segments:
Coronado Full Road Climb
W Montezuma Canyon Rd
Arizona 92 Climb

Tombstone Loop Bicycle Road Ride

Tombstone Loop

Road

Otherwise known as the Surge route, the Tombstone Loop starts and finishes at the Cherokee lot but includes most of the former Surge route. Like most longer rides around here it is isolated. Highway 82 starts with 10 miles of a slight downhill to the San Pedro River and is a good place to push it. If you’re not in a hurry, pedal around Tombstone a little before the trek back on Charleston Rd to Sierra Vista.

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Convenience stores are located in Huachuca City, Whetstone and Tombstone but otherwise it’s open road with no services.

Popular Strava segments:
San Pedro Surge Full Course
Fairbank to Hiway 80
Last F’n Climb!

Parker Canyon Lake Bicycle Road Ride

Parker Canyon Lake

Road

*Ft. Huachuca pass required.

This is a scenic, low traffic out and back to Parker Canyon Lake. While there is a store open seasonally and a water fountain and bathrooms at the campground, bring plenty of food and water for the isolated journey. There are no shortage of punchy climbs.

The route map below includes the optional 1 mile detour to the campground bathrooms and water fountain marked in black.

Popular Strava segments:
W Gate to Parker
Parker to West Gate
Cimarron Rd Climb

Gravel Rides

Garden Canyon Gravel Bike Ride

Garden Canyon

Gravel
40 miles
3330 ft elevation

Beginner/Intermediate
Starts at Cherokee Lot

*Ft. Huachuca pass required.

A cool spot in the hot summer and the scenery is great. You’ll find the best fall colors around in Garden Canyon in the fall. At the top, head to the right for the optional punishing climb to Gate 7 or head left up Sawmill trail through the pine trees. Both are marked in black on the map below.

The first 15 miles to the mouth of the canyon are mostly pavement but included to give you the option of a longer distance and starting at the Cherokee lot. Shorten the ride and lessen the pavement by starting somewhere along the route if you’d rather.

Popular Strava segments:
Aerostat Turn-off to First Wash
Garden Canyon Uphill
Garden Canyon Downhill

Huachuca Canyon Gravel Bike Ride

Huachuca Canyon

Gravel/MTB
27 miles
2541 ft elevation

Intermediate
Starts at Cherokee Lot

*Ft. Huachuca pass required.

Like Garden Canyon, Huachuca Canyon is a nice, isolated climb through scenic trees. The roadbed is a bit more chunky than Garden Canyon. The farther up the canyon you go, the more it becomes mountain bike terrain. Our map includes the optional High Huachuca Canyon Loop, not for the faint of heart. Also watch for the 1.4 mile section of downhill single track about mile 17.5 on the right coming down. Both are marked in black on the map below.

The first 9 miles to the mouth of the canyon are pavement. That’s a good place to start if you want to shorten the ride and amount of pavement.

Popular Strava segments:
Huachuca Canyon Climb
High Huachuca Canyon Climb
Huachuca Canyon Trail Downhill

San Rafael Valley Gravel Bike Ride

San Rafael Valley

Gravel
62.2 miles
4671 ft elevation

Advanced
Starts at Canelo

The San Rafael Valley will wow you as will the Patagonia Mountains and Canelo Hills. The San Rafael Natural Area is home to the largest remaining natural grassland in the Southwest.

This ride is not for the novice or inexperienced. The terrain is challenging, the area very isolated and there are no services. There is a bailout at mile 25.8 that will cut the ride to 42.5 miles if you turn north on Patagonia-San Rafael Rd (Forest Road 813). Follow it to San Rafael Valley Rd, turn left and continue north rejoining the original route at about mile 54. This shaves 20 miles and almost 1700 ft of elevation from the ride.

Popular Strava segments:
climb to duquesne rd
Harshaw Road Climb
Canelo Pass Rd Climb

Family Friendly Rides

Mall Loop Bicycle Trail

Mall Loop

Family Friendly Paved
5 miles
125 ft elevation

Beginner
Starts at Sierra Vista Mall

Sierra Vista has a nice network of paved trails and this 5 mile loop is a family favorite. The terrain is about as flat as it gets around here and you’re never far from civilization.

Popular Strava segments:
Hwy 92 mall to BST
SHORT VLIMB
Coming in hot

Garden Canyon Linear Park Bicycle Trail

Garden Canyon Linear Park

Family Friendly Dirt
4.24 miles
147 ft elevation

Beginner
Starts at Cherokee Lot

A network of beginner friendly trails to get your tires dusty. These trails are perfect for that first time off the pavement. Don’t be afraid to take some side trails and explore a little.

Popular Strava segments:
Buena Speed Loop
NICA drag strip
Andrews to Cherokee

Cochise Vista Bicycle Trail

Cochise Vista Trail

Family Friendly Paved
23 miles
781 ft elevation

Beginner/Intermediate
Starts at Cherokee Lot

A great way to see Sierra Vista on the popular Cochise Vista Trail. Add some detours or cut it short. Turn around at Ramsey Canyon Rd if you want to skip the last climb up the Newman Trail.

Popular Strava segments:
Xavier DOWN
Guilio Cesare – South
Ramsey Repeat Warm Up

Look for more Local Rides here soon.

Fry & Hwy 92 Address

3880 E Fry Blvd
Sierra Vista AZ 85635
Phone: 520 458 0685

Hours
Tuesday-Friday 9am-6pm
Saturday 9am-5pm
Closed Sunday and Monday

Source https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/united-states/arizona/stories-in-arizona/returning-water-to-the-san-pedro-river/

Source https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/united-states/arizona/stories-in-arizona/returning-water-to-the-san-pedro-river/

Source https://sunnspokes.com/ridesandmaps.html

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