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San Bernradino Refuge

The San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge is located on the U.S.-Mexican border in Cochise County, Arizona, 17 miles east of Douglas. Situated at 3,720 to 3,920 feet elevation in the bottom of a wide valley, the Refuge encompasses a portion of the headquarters of the Yaqui River, which drains primarily western Chihuahua and eastern Sonora, Mexico.    The area included in the San Bernardino NWR has a colorful and varied history mostly due to its water resources. During the 1700s, Jesuit priests were in the area for missionary purposes. The 1822 San Bernardino Land Grant (which included the present-day Refuge), resulted in large-scale cattle grazing for 10 years, until the ranchers were driven out by the Apaches. Cattle ranching returned and farming began when John Slaughter purchased the land in 1887 and both practices continued until 1979. between 1914 and 1919, cavalry encampments were present to protect settlers during raids by Pancho Villa. These all left their mark on the landscape of the San Bernardino area.   The San Bernardino Valley once supported permanently flowing creeks, springs, and marshy wetlands. In addition, the giant sacaton grassland in the valley was once described as a luxuriant meadow some eight or ten miles long and a mile wide." The dependable source of water and grass made the area not only invaluable to a huge diversity of fish and wildlife, but also a center of human activity for centuries.    With expanding settlement beginning in the late 1800's came farming, mining, and livestock production, all of which competed for the same precious water. While the extensive wetlands here once provided historic habitat for eight different kinds of native fish, the lowering water table led to severe changes in the habitat and the eventual local extinctions of many species.      

Getting There . . .   From Douglas, Arizona, take Highway 191 north to mile marker 11. About 1/4 mile past milepost take paved road to the east for 1 mile to refuge office complex. 

"Over 270 species of birds can be seen at San Bernardino NWR, including great blue heron, green-backed heron, Virginia rail, ringneck duck, Mexican duck, sandhill crane, magnificent hummingbird, Costa's hummingbird, yellow warbler, blue grosbeak, phainopeplas, white-crowned sparrows, and Gila woodpeckers. Raptors include gray hawk, zone-tailed hawk, golden eagle, Swainson's hawk, kestrel, sharp-shinned hawk, and peregrine falcon.   San Bernardino NWR historically supported about one-quarter of the fish species native to Arizona. These include several endangered and threatened species such as the Yaqui chub, Yaqui topminnow , Yaqui beautiful shiner and Yaqui catfish. The other species native to the San Bernardino include Mexican stoneroller, longfin dace, roudtail chub and Yaqui sucker.   The San Bernardino NWR is open to birdwatching, photography and hiking, as well as dove, quail and cottontail rabbit hunting in season. Leslie Canyon NWR is closed to hunting and both refuges are closed to fishing.

Contact Information

P.O. Box 3509
Highway 191 north to mile marker 11. About 1/4 mile past milepost take paved road to the west for 1 mile to Refuge office.
Douglas, AZ 85607

Phone: 520-364-2104
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