San Rafael Ranch State Natural Area State Park, Patagonia, AZ

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Louise Speaks:  While on our recent trip to Patagonia we were able to visit another State Park.  San Rafael Ranch State Park is more of a nature area than a usable park.  This area is a unique area with rolling hills, native grasses, and oak and cottonwood trees.  This beautiful valley is the headwaters of the Santa Cruz River, which flows into Mexico then turns north back into the United States and eventually joins the Gila River.  The  area and native grass prairie are home to many species of plants and animals.  One of the endangered plants, Huachuca Water Umbel grows in the river area.  The area is also home to mule deer, javalina, antelope, bobcats, cougar, coyote and many birds unique to the prairie, and we did see many of these animals…after all it is Arizona.

There are plans to make the park more usable but I feel they need to make it more accessible.  Let me explain.  Since it’s not a usable park, finding it is a challenge.  Since it has been our project to visit all the State Parks in Arizona, we had to find this park so we could at least take a picture of the sign to prove that we were there.  With no idea where the park or natural area is located I called the park ranger.

Allen the ranger I spoke with said there really is no park, it is an area.  I asked, “where is the park sign…I need a picture”…lol.  He said, “there is a sign at the main intersection of the San Rafael Valley”.  I asked, “where is the house that is shown on your website”.  He said, “the house is not open and that is the proposed location for a visitor center”.  I asked, “can we at least see the house”.  He said, “yes, from the road, it’s huge, you can’t miss it”.  I asked, “can  you give me directions to the sign and to the house”, and he did…step by step.

So while on our RV trip to Patagonia, our friends who tow a car agreed to take us on this adventure.  I had the direction and they had a GPS so off we went.  Turn by turn along we went…then we hit the dirt road.  A well maintained dirt road, but very VERY dusty.  We drove on this dirt road, following the directions and the GPS for almost an hour.  Finally we reached the sign at the junction.  I took my picture.  According to my directions the house was a mile up the road on the right.  We drove over 5 miles and still no house.  There was a water truck along the road so we stopped and asked where is the big house.  The water guy said oh you must mean the one up the road by the green gate.  He said the gate was locked but we can see it from the road.  So off we go

We eventually found the house, couldn’t really see it as it was

Picture from website

in the distance, but I could tell it was the same house as on the website.  The territorial style ranch house, was built in 1900, and is over 9,000 square feet. The landscape and house have been featured in many movies.

So mission accomplished.  However, now it was time to go back to camp.  Right at the green gate is a sign that said, if we continued going on the dirt road Nogales (Mexico) was just 8 miles up the road.  So we had a choice of going back the way we came…1 1/2 hours on that dirt road, or going thru Nogales and reaching the main highway to get back to Patagonia.  We opted to continue to Nogales.

The San Rafael State Park may have it’s good points.  Miles and Miles of meadows and cows and horses but 1 1/2 hours on a dirt road, a washboard road, with no signs  is a lot to expect from people to visit this proposed visitor center.   I’m not even sure what a natural area is suppose to offer us.  It was simply a valley with nothing of interest.  I can’t imagine anyone making this trip to visit a visitor Information Center…no matter what they include as their exhibits.  So for this area to become a tourist spot, they are going to have to find a better way for people to get there, like pave the road, have signage posted and have one hell of an exhibit in the visitor center.

So this makes 32 of 33 state parks completed.  We  are so grateful for this RV trip as it it helped us to complete our State park project.  However, I have no plans of ever coming to this area again.  There is nothing at all to see, and not even the journey to the park can be classified as a beautiful drive.  We did it, we can cross it off the list and that’s all I can say about this park.

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