You can find sought-after species such as Elegant Trogon, Spotted Owl, and Montezuma Quail, and migrating tanagers, warblers, and grosbeaks along this gorge on the Fort Huachuca Army Base.
By Jerry Uhlman | Published: 2/24/2012
Located on the outskirts of Sierra Vista, Garden Canyon is a lush hotspot noted for sought-after species such as Elegant Trogon and Spotted Owl. But it’s a great place to find many other birds, too. The grassy fields on the way into the canyon, for example, are where to watch for Cassin’s and Botteri’s Sparrows.
My favorite spot is the upper picnic area, where a small stream draws a variety of birds. At the site a couple of years ago, I watched Sharp-shinned Hawks chase slow-flying Elegant Trogons among the trees. In the spring, the towering deciduous forest in the lower canyon is filled with migrating tanagers, warblers, and grosbeaks.
Not far beyond the picnic area, the pavement stops, and the rocky track becomes slow-going even for high-clearance vehicles. I usually follow the road from the picnic area on foot. I once found a Spotted Owl perched in a sycamore tree just beyond the stream-crossing. The area is my favorite spot to find flycatchers, such as Hammond’s, Sulphur-bellied, and Buff-breasted. Side-trails lead to meadows that are good places to look for Painted Redstart, Mexican Jay, and Montezuma Quail. — Jerry Uhlman
Jerry Uhlman writes a birding column for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He also wrote about Dutch Gap Conservation Area, Chester, Virginia, Hotspot Near You No. 66, Creston Valley WMA, Creston, British Columbia, No. 111, Bear Run Nature Reserve, Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania, No. 118, and Shenandoah River State Park, Bentonville, Virginia, No. 142.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Pine and deciduous trees, streams, mountains.
Narrow, twisting gorge. Paved to upper picnic area, gravel beyond. Gradual climb on foot becomes steeper along rocky roadway.
Mexican Spotted Owl, Elegant Trogon, Montezuma Quail, Mexican and Steller’s Jays, Sulphur-bellied, Dusky-capped, Hammond’s, and Buff-breasted Flycatchers, Painted Redstart, Red-faced and Grace’s Warblers, Hutton’s Vireo, Canyon and Bewick’s Wrens, Acorn and Arizona Woodpeckers, Broad-billed and Black-chinned Hummingbirds, Hepatic and Western Tanagers, Bridled Titmouse, Scott’s and Bullock’s Orioles, Greater Roadrunner, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Band-tailed Pigeon, Golden Eagle, Chihuahuan and Common Ravens, Black-headed Grosbeak.
When to go
Spring through late June is best, but autumn also is productive during migration.
Map and checklist available at visitor center. Several picnic areas have restrooms and drinking water. Bring your own snacks and water. Field trips offered through Huachuca Audubon Society.
U.S. Army post. Access restricted to U.S. citizens only. Foreign nationals must be accompanied by specially trained military escort. All visitors 13 and over must have photo ID. Bring driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance (or auto-rental documents). Military maneuvers may limit access at times; obey all rules. Call main gate for current access info.
Be alert for military traffic on the canyon road. Take a high-clearance vehicle if you expect to drive to the top.
For more info
Ramsey Canyon Preserve
Less than 10 miles south of Sierra Vista on Hwy. 92. Up to 14 species of hummingbird buzz nonstop around the visitor center’s feeders.
San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area
A few miles east of Sierra Vista on Hwy. 90. More than 350 species documented. One of the best places in Arizona to see Gray Hawk and Green Kingfisher.