On a pleasant Sunday in early May, 2013, Ms. Karen, my mother-in-law Judy, and I traveled from Tucson to Carr & Ramsey Canyons south of Sierra Vista. Our principal goal was to attend a 2 PM performance by Dolan Ellis, the Official Arizona State Balladeer at the Arizona Folklore Preserve in Ramsey Canyon. Along the way we enjoyed several beautiful places that most folks don’t even know about.
Carr Canyon was our first stop. Carr Canyon is just south of Ramsey Canyon at the southern tip of the Huachuca Mountains. At the Carr House we met Mike Foster, who is the resident expert in these parts. Birds, wildlife, plants, history: Mike knows them all well. Better yet, Mike is a talented videographer. We already have one of his videos about the Carr House and another about the San Pedro River on our Southern Arizona Guide. He will soon be sharing more of his videos about local wildlife on our website. While we were here, we viewed one showing a local black bear climbing a tree. Amazing! This critter climbed a big tree faster than most people can run on level ground.
After chatting with Mike for a while, we headed up the mountain on a rough dirt road to our intended picnic area at Reef Townsite Campground five miles beyond the Carr House. If you go, you won’t need a 4-wheel drive vehicle, but we do recommend one with fairly high clearance. The road is steep and has many switchbacks. But the awesome views make the bumpy journey worthwhile. Please view our 2015 Carr Canyon Picnic slideshow here.
Between the late 1880s and early 1900s, there was a mining town here at Reef Township Campground. The town was named for the Carr Reef, a tall band of quartzite-bearing cliffs that form the Huachuca Mountains’ dramatic eastern front. Mr. Carr was a local mining entrepreneur. Now the former townsite serves as a fine camping & picnicking area, but do bring your own water.
For future reference, campsites 9 & 12 seemed to us to be the best. Each campsite had a table, a fire pit, and a flat area for tents. Fee: $10 per day. Also, there is one day-use picnic site for a large group with many picnic tables under a ramada and several fire pits with grates.
We are nothing if not picnic people. Love a good picnic. Which is why Southern Arizona Guide offers our viewers a list of the Best Picnic Areas. Here in the woods near the top of Carr Canyon is another of Southern Arizona’s many Sky Islands, a unique ecosystem completely different than the Sonoran Desert below.
In our picnic basket this time was summer sausage, roast beef, Grey Poupon, jalapeno cheddar cheese, several varieties of crackers, apple, orange, a couple of Coronas, and a bottle of Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc 2012.
After our picnic and a short walkabout, we headed down Carr Canyon to Highway 92 at the base of the Huachuca Mountains. Turning north, it is only a mile or so to Ramsey Canyon Road. Heading up Ramsey Canyon Road the Folklore Preserve is about 3 miles on the left. If you get to the Nature Conservancy’s Visitors Center at the end of the road, you missed it.
Arizona Folklore Preserve
The Arizona Folklore Preserve is a small, rustic venue staffed mostly with volunteers. Mr. Ellis is the founder and artist-in-residence here in beautiful Ramsey Canyon, where he performs one weekend a month. Guest country, Western, & folk artists perform on the other three weekends. For the upcoming schedule at the AFP, click HERE.
Balladeers tell stories through their music and Dolan Ellis is an excellent storyteller, songwriter, singer, and guitarist. His one-man show was totally worth the drive from Tucson for the hour and a half performance. Reservations for upcoming performances are highly recommended: (520)378-6165 or email [email protected]
Of course, there is another good reason to visit Ramsey Canyon. Anyone who has been here knows the natural beauty of the Canyon itself. 170 species of birds, including 14 varieties of hummers, have been spotted in Ramsey Canyon, where temperatures are typically 10-15 degrees cooler than Tucson. A trail parallels Ramsey Creek and further up the mountain are more trails into the Coronado National Forest. Keep an eye out for black bear, coati, wild turkey, white-tail deer, mountain lion, bobcat, and other wildlife.
Liz Sockness recently retired as manager of the bookstore here. She shared many of her photographs with us and you can view the hummingbird slideshow by clicking HERE. On this trip we met Debbie, the new bookstore manager.
The Nature Conservancy’s Visitors' Center at Ramsey Canyon is open 9 AM to 5 PM. Closed Tuesdays & Wednesdays.