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Sonoita Creek State Natural Park, Patagonia, AZ

Louise Speaks:  At the same entrance as Patagonia State Park, is the entrance to the Sonoita Creek State Park.  Very similar to San Rafael, it is a nature area that is great for hiking and even bird watching.  The park itself is basically a parking lot where you park and then decide what you want to do.  There are hiking trails, picnic tables and cactus gardens for your enjoyment.  Horseback riding and hunting is also allowed at Sonoita Creek State park.   The Sonoita Creek runs thru the nature area but today the creek is bone dry. ..but I bet it is pretty with water running thru it.  The Patagonia State Park Visitor Center also serves as the visitor center for Sonoita Creek as well.

The Visitor Center houses a permanent exhibit that includes a large three-dimensional model of the Natural Area with topographical contours, trails and campsites.  There is also a list of recently seen birds,  several reptiles including a Gila monster and a children’s’ table with books, crayons and activities.  Also available for free are natural history brochures, articles, publications, posters, bird lists, Jr. Ranger activity booklets for children, and local tourist information.   A library with hundreds of references is available for guests to use on site.  Binoculars are loaned to guests participating in a guided activities.  A self-guided plant walk around the Visitor Center provides an introduction to local plants.


We were only here a few minutes to check out the area and the cactus that were in bloom.  It would be a nice area if I was interested in any of the things the area is designed for.


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

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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Buckskin Mountain State Park, Parker, AZ

buckskin-mountain-sp-028Louise Speaks:  This is the first stop on a 7 day 3 stop RV trip.  We are wagon masters for this so we got to pick the stops and the things to see and do…quite a powerful task.  Since we are trying to do all the state parks in Arizona and camp at all the parks that offer camping, Buckskin was the reason for this stop.  Parker is right on the state line of Arizona and California and sits right along side the river.  In fact the state line is in the middle of the river.  So if you are boating, you cross the state live very easily.  Buckskin Mountain State Park is right on the edge of the river, and just beautiful.  We are here in February and on a Wednesday so not much is happening, but the park is full.  There are 8 Rigs on this trip and we are ready for a fun time.  The weather today is just perfect.  The sun is shining, the breeze is blowing and it is very comfortable.  This will not be the case in 4 months.  Parker’s temperature can exceed 100 degrees, but being along the river definitely helps.  With visiting Buckskin today we are half way through visiting all the state parks in Arizona, and we have camped at half the parks that offer camping.  Maybe this should be a goal for 2017…to complete this state park mission and be done with Arizona.

buckskin-mountain-state-park-az-019Buckskin Mountain is a  second developed area of the park is known as the River Island Unit or River Island State Park. Both park areas have shoreline on the  Colorado River  and views of the Buckskin Mountains.  We have not yet visited or camped at River Island State Park, so we do have to make another trip out this way but not during the summer months…looks like a fall or winter trip later in the year.  Like I mentioned, Buckskin is right on the rivers edge and the park provides camping and water recreation opportunities.  There is also plenty of fishing and one of our members spent a whole day doing just that.

Buckskin Mountain State Park is primarily operated by volunteers with only a few park rangers split between the two parks.  Both sites are home to many different kinds of birds, insects, fish & plant life, as well as a winter haven for travelers from up North.  What this means, is remember when I said the park was full.  Well because of the weather and the location, what Arizonians call “SnowBirds” people from the northern part of the United States flock to Arizona for the winter months, so parks like this are full to the brim.  Come May and later, you could just drive up and get a spot.

709550I’m just kidding about the park being empty during the summer months.  The area is just beautiful.  You have the river on one side and beautiful Arizona mountains on the other.  Buckskin Mountain State Park commands one of the finest views along the Parker strip, an 18-mile stretch between Parker Dam and Headgate Dam.   This picturesque park provides scenic respite, mountain hikes, a desert escape and fun-filled water adventure.  In the summer Buckskin is popular for boating, jet skiing, swimming and camping.  In the winter, visitors appreciate the mild climate and enjoy camping, fishing and hiking in the park. Buckskin is a  year-round destinations for those looking to discover a variety of recreational and cultural resources.  The Colorado River Indian Reservation is just east of Parker and archaeological sites are scattered up and down Arizona’s “west coast.”  Parker Dam, the world’s deepest dam, is located approximately five miles to the north on Highway 95.  About 25 miles north is Lake Havasu City, home of the famous London Bridge. This 1,677-acre park has been operated by Arizona State Parks since 1967.

101_0177Like I said we are half way through visiting the state parks in Arizona, and this one is moving close to the top.  It is just beautiful here.  I know it will be hot in the summer, but you  are walking distance to the rivers edge where there is a swim beach.  If you are lucky enough to have a boat or water vehicle, I’m sure you would not mind the temperatures at all.  There are plenty of trees so you are in the shade, so sitting outside, watching the hustle and bustle of the river would still prove to be a wonderful time, no matter what the temperature.  Each site has a fire ring, picnic table and the RV spots are very spacious so you are not right next to your neighbor.  The park is clean as are the restrooms and showers.



We truly enjoyed this park.  We are here for two days so we are going to enjoy the sites.  There is a casino in Parker where we all went to play bingo our first night.  There are plenty of bars and night life along the river, but in February they are only open on the weekends.  Of course there is fishing and water activities, but we are visiting an old mining town…to be blogged about seperately.  I would highly recommend coming to Buckskin Mountain State Park.  There is lots to do, or it’s a great place to just do nothing.