San Rafael Ranch State Natural Area
Wildlife at San Rafael Ranch State Natural Area
San Rafael Ranch State Natural Area is a 35-square-mile expanse of rolling short-grass prairie crossed by the natural riparian corridor along the Santa Cruz River. San Rafael Ranch is a cooperative venture between Arizona State Parks and the Nature Conservancy to keep this undeveloped valley with its rare native plants and animals as pristine as possible.
Approximately 15 miles of county roads enter the property at four different points and, for now, only photography of the scenic valley is allowed. The property itself is not yet open to the public. The Nature Conservancy holds 17,000 acres under a conservation easement that guarantees the land will remain pristine and never be developed. Arizona State Parks bought 3,550 acres of the southern part of the ranch around the ranch homestead with its pre-territorial houses, barns, corrals, blacksmith shop, and windmills. As of 2020, there seem to be no plans to open the property to the public.
San Rafael Ranch State Natural Area is about 23 miles southeast of Patagonia on the Santa Cruz River.
Upper photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management