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Memories of Fort Huachuca

Pyrrhuloxia - Cardinalis sinuatus
Pyrrhuloxia near Garden Canyon at Fort Huachuca. Huachuca Mountians near Sierra Vista Arizona.

The Huachuca Mountain Sky Island is chock full of exciting birding destinations. There are too many exceptional places to describe in a single post. I will attempt to offer information about the locations I’ve enjoyed in sections or episodes. This one is about the locations on the Fort Huachuca Army base.

This is a working military base, so playing by the rules is imperative. Disobey the rules, even unintentionally and the consequences will be unpleasant. A visit here starts with a stop at the security station at the main gate, to show your ID, your vehicle registration and insurance before you can acquire a day pass. Garden Canyon and Huachuca Canyon, each are accessed via passage through the Army base.

Known for its legacy as home of the “Buffalo Soldiers”, the base is positioned at the foot of the Huachuca Mountains’ northern slope. Garden Canyon and Huachuca Canyon have been carved into the mountain by the grind of creek water and time. This Sky Island is nestled next to the border with Mexico and attracts birds rarely found elsewhere north of Mexico.

Both of these canyons are navigable via dirt roads. Sometimes closed gates will restrict vehicles from travelling the full length of these roads, but foot and bicycle traffic can carry the interested explorer far up-slope to meet its inhabitants. The journeys into each of these canyons begins on open grasslands and the habitat changes to a creek-side oak and sycamore riparian corridor, and later to conifer forests at higher elevations.

If the intrepid explorer is willing to scamper up steeper side trails, there is potential to meet Mexican Spotted Owls here. The gallery below should provide an idea of some of the possibilities for birds and other subjects you could meet in these canyons.

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