In early December, Ms. Rosemary and I, Ms. Karen, made reservations for the Arch Hike in Brown Canyon. Brown Canyon is located on the east side of the Baboquivari Mountains, sacred to the Tohono O’odham. The canyon is only open by reservation from November – April in order to preserve the pristine wilderness, plant and animal life. It is a remote part of the desert, cell phones don’t work here and the road in can be rough.
This area is a treasured part of BANWR, the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge which boasts over 117,000 acres of land most of which is east of the Hwy 286. Brown Canyon is south of Three Points and west of Arivaca off State route 286. Guided hikes are offered for $5 the second and fourth Saturdays of the month at 9am, and by private reservation anytime for $45.
The guided Arch Hike is 4 miles round-trip, with an elevation gain of only 400 ft, it is considered moderate by most. It starts out in the grasslands with rare native grasses and cacti, dotted by buildings of a bygone era, then moves into the sycamore-lined canyon that is much cooler with a near-perennial stream flowing through it. Magnificent.
The Wildlife Refuge bills it as “a beautiful sycamore-shaded canyon of extraordinary diversity, a protected pristine example of the sky island ecosystem.” It is exceptional. However, in June of this year, 2016, it was marred by a human-caused fire, burning over 15,000 acres of the lower elevations of Brown Canyon. This December we could see that many of the rare and treasured plants here are beginning to return or had survived; pinon pine, alligator juniper, a rare low-growing cactus, the MacDougall mammalaria and the Rainbow Cactus. Our guide, Jean was most helpful in pointing these varieties out. This is such a special place, I think we will book an early morning private hike in early April to try and catch the wildflowers and hopefully critters in the area, coati, ringtail, bobcats, deer and the like.
Watch the slideshow, hover on the slide to see a brief description.
Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1985, under the Endangered Species Act. Most of the Refuge exists between I-10 south of Tucson and Arivaca west of Route 286. Brown Canyon is a very special part of the BANWR. If you are an avid hiker or naturalist, don’t miss this opportunity. To learn more about the BANWR area east of Arivaca, click here.