San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area
San Pedro House is the most frequent taking off point for hikers and mountain bikers. You'll find several excellent trails here as well as abandoned road beds. If you want more isolation, Hereford Bridge is a good fit.
San Pedro House Trails
There are several trails in the vicinity of the San Pedro House. Most are left in their natural state and maintained only by regular use.
Old Road Beds: The Old San Rafael del Valle road bed is an excellent bicycle, horse or hiking trail that leads south from the San Pedro House to Hereford Road 10 miles away. The trail north of Hwy. 90 once was the road that lead to the Clanton Ranch, about 3 miles away.
River Trail: This trail follows the river along its channel. During high flows it will be underwater! It is often very muddy and should be avoided until dry. A second trail follows the river bank and remains dry all year. Both trails access Kingfisher Pond. There are several points of interest...
- San Pedro House - A historic ranch house restored by the Friends of the San Pedro River is a bookstore and gift shop run by volunteers.
- The Big Cottonwood Tree is not as old as you might think. Cottonwoods grow very quickly in favorable conditions. The one next to the San Pedro House is estimated to be between 90 and 130 years old. The cottonwood behind the house was planted in 1956.
- Linear pools often form along rivers, providing excellent habitat for turtles, frogs and fish. They are created by a wash coming into the river or changes in underground geology.
- Oxbows are semi-circles of trees created when the river was in a different channel. Young Cottonwoods sprout only in very wet conditions. Oxbows show us where the water once flowed either in a different channel or during high flows.
- Kingfisher Pond was created years ago when this area was a sand and gravel quarry. The large hole created by the operation eventually filled up with ground and flood water. There are no surface inlets or outlets. Green Kingfishers are often seen along its edge.
- Abandoned agricultural fields dominate the landscape here. They were once used for growing alfalfa and other feed for cattle. Native vegetation is steadily returning as can be seen along the Del Valle road.
Hereford Bridge Access Point
Open for day use or parking for backcountry camping (permit required), this area is excellent for birding and hiking, and provides access to extensive cottonwood/willow riparian habitat, and sacaton and mesquite lowlands.
From the Hereford Bridge, hike north as far as you wish, then return back the same way. Or hike all the way to the Highway 90 Bridge, a distance of 8 miles as the Gray Hawk flies, or 10 with all of the bends in the river included. Few birders have done this route, but it is highly rewarding since you can explore the length of the San Pedro River's perennial stretch in one day. Car pool to one end and leave one car; drive to the other end and hike the river one way.
A good loop hike begins at the Del Valle Road 0.5 mile west of the Hereford Bridge. Follow the old road bed to Hunter Wash, the first big wash you come to. Follow the wash east to the river, then follow the river south back to the Hereford Bridge Parking area for a total distance of about 8 miles.
South of the bridge there is a patchwork of private and public property.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication