Sonoita Creek State Natural Area
On Site Volunteers Needed
Ride your horse from Patagonia Lake to Rio Rico, AZ, through Sonoita Creek State Natural Area. Hiking, camping, bird watching and school field trips are also available.
Established in 1994, Sonoita Creek State Natural Area's mission is to preserve this fragile riparian area and its surrounding environment. Encompassing a major portion of the Sonoita Creek and Coal Mine Spring watersheds, this is the State of Arizona's first significant Natural Area.
The Natural Area protects not only the endangered Gila Topminnow and serveral special-status birds, but also historical and cultural relics. Low impact recreations such as hiking, and bird watching co-exist with education and scientific research of Sonoita Creek State Natural Area.
Sonoita Creek State Natural Area is unique in that, within a relatively small area, seven distinct vegetative communities are present ranging from Semi-Desert Grasslands to Riparian Deciduous Forests. The visual and biological characteristics of these communities are markedly different, and their combined presence in a relatively small area is quite rare.
The Natural Area is located in a transitional zone between the Sonoran Desert and the Chihuahuan Desert. Representative species from each zone can be observed within its boundaries.
Sonoita Creek State Natural Area and Patagonia Lake State Park are located next to each other in Patagonia, Arizona. The Natural Area conserves the land in its natural state, so you won’t find restrooms or modern camping facilities in the Natural Area.
Use Patagonia Lake State Park as your base camp to enjoy the hiking, horseback riding, and natural surroundings of the Sonoita Creek area. Please practice “Leave No Trace” ethics.
Because of a reduction in staffing at the Park, currently the program is not being offered.
Educational Curriculum for School Field Trips
Healthy Water Education Program: For Grades 3 through 6
A curriculum called The Healthy Water Education Program was developed at Sonoita Creek State Natural Area by State Park and educators several years ago for use with grades 3 to 6. It is available for use by teachers or parents. The curriculum includes activities for learning about water temperature, PH, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity through water testing. Students learn to use microscopes to observe and identify microscopic animals in lake water. The chapter on Pollution is from a fish's point of view. The activities and concepts are aligned with the State Science Curriculum Standards.
Download Healthy Water Education Program Curriculum ( 1.6 MB PDF)
Download Healthy Water Journal ( 460 KB PDF) Please print out a journal for each student. Can be printed 2-sided.
Learn about Curriculums at other Arizona State Parks
New Mexico and Arizona Railroad
Sections of this railroad once paralleled Sonoita Creek from Patagonia to Rio Rico. The New Mexico and Arizona Railroad Trail follows the old railroad bed. Remains of the past can be seen in the form of culverts, bridge abutments, pilings, spikes and rails. Please leave these artifacts for others to enjoy.
- Maintain natural surface water flow.
- Protect and restore riparian habitat.
- Protect and restore upland habitat.
- Maintain diverse and healthly population of native wildlife.
- Protect existing populations of special-status native wildlife species.
- Protect cultural resources.
- Provide opportunities for appropriate public use for recreaion, resource interpretation, environmental education, and scientific research.
- Develop mutually beneficial partnerships that facilitate resource management and protection within the Sonoita Creek watershed.
- Alamo Lake
- Buckskin Mountain
- Cattail Cove
- Lake Havasu
- River Island
- Yuma Quartermaster Depot
- Yuma Territorial Prison
- Dead Horse Ranch
- Fort Verde
- Red Rock
- Riordan Mansion
- Slide Rock
- Verde River Greenway
- Boyce Thompson Arboretum
- Fool Hollow Lake
- Lost Dutchman
- Lyman Lake
- Tonto Natural Bridge