Birding Hotspots Where to Go Birding

Sawmill Canyon

Sierra Vista, Arizona 85613
Birding at Fort Huachuca
Garden Canyon map

Also, see Fort Huachuca and Garden Canyon

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Cochise County

Sawmill Canyon
Coordinates: 31.4521999, -110.3761978
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Birding in Arizona

About Fort Huachuca
One of Arizona’s largest military installations, Fort Huachuca was established in 1877 and continues as an active military post. The fort was the headquarters of the 4th Cavalry patrols that pursued Geronimo and his band of Chiricahua Apache and ultimately brought about their surrender in 1886. Fort Huachuca also served as home of the famous “Buffalo Soldiers” who, among other exploits, chased Pancho Villa in 1916 following attacks on Columbus, New Mexico. Today, Fort Huachuca is an important military intelligence and communications center, and the expansive installation helps manage and protect important biological diversity on and adjacent to the Huachuca Mountains. Two museums and an annex trace the fort’s colorful history. Located within Fort Huachuca, Garden Canyon is sometimes called the most beautiful canyon in the Huachuca Mountains, and this scenic area contains some of the most diverse plant and animal life in the mountain range. This prominent desert landscape is bordered in several areas by creeks, ponds, forests, and waterfalls, with a wide variety of wildflowers, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.

This portion of the Huachuca Mountains and San Pedro River Valley offers good opportunities to see white-tailed deer, pronghorn, javelina, coatimundi, black bear, and other mammals. Grasslands are prime habitat for Cassin’s and Botteri’s sparrows, which are best located while they are singing during July and August. Garden canyon and its associated side canyons are excellent places to observe the Montezuma quail, Gould’s turkey, acorn woodpecker, Mexican jay, elegant trogon, sulphur-bellied and buff-breasted flycatchers, painted redstart, and red-faced and Grace’s warbler. There is also a chance of seeing Mexican spotted owls. Common reptiles include the Yarrow’s and Clark’s spiny lizards, desert grassland whiptail, Sonoran spotted whiptail, Sonoran whipsnake, Sonoran mountain kingsnake, rock rattlesnake, and black-tailed rattlesnake. Wetlands on the fort support the Ramsey Canyon leopard frog and Sonoran tiger salamander. The fort provides varied habitats for a tremendous diversity of land snails, dragonflies, and other insects, including many endemic species. Garden Canyon is legendary among butterfly enthusiasts because of its biodiversity.

Fort Huachuca has traditionally been open to the public, but be aware that security concerns can suddenly change and tighten access requirements. Civilian visitors who are U.S. citizens must be prepared to provide photo identification, vehicle registration and/or car rental contract, and proof of insurance. Foreign nationals are allowed to visit only in the company of a U.S. citizen with a military identification card. Additionally, all or parts of the post may be closed to civilians for indefinite periods of time for reasons of public safety and/or national security. All visitors are subject to random inspections by military police.

From Sierra Vista go west through post main gate, then follow road southwest to Garden Canyon.

A single-lane dirt road takes you to the top of Garden Canyon, where a short walk and a climb up boardwalk steps leads to a good view of prehistoric rock paintings. The Upper Picnic Area in Garden Canyon provides excellent birding, and trailheads to other canyon areas are found here. The rough, steep Scheelite Canyon Trail begins about 0.7 mile past the Upper Picnic Area and the steep, but more gentle Sawmill Canyon Trail at the end of Garden Canyon Road continues to climb through classic pine-oak woodland. The road to Garden Canyon is closed occasionally because of military maneuvers, and other canyons on the fort, including Huachuca and Blacktail, also offer excellent wildlife viewing opportunities.
From Birding at Fort Huachuca