Sky Island SPOTlight: Aravaipa Canyon

The east side of Aravaipa Canyon

Introducing our Sky Island SPOTlight series! Throughout the next few weeks we will be introducing you to the beautiful places in the Sky Island region where we are lucky enough to work! Join any of our volunteer trips to see one of these gorgeous spots!

First up, Aravaipa Creek

Aravaipa Creek is on the northern end of the Galiuro Mountains, NE of Mammoth, AZ. It is located in the San Pedro River Watershed and is a very important tributary of the San Pedro River. Perennial waters are rare in the low desert, and Aravaipa Creek supports over 10 precious miles of perennial waters through an otherwise arid ecosystem. 

Backpacking in the Wilderness Area


Water begins flowing in the creek from springs on The Nature Conservancy’s Aravaipa Canyon Preserve , and continues for miles through the BLM Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness. The stream provides habitat for seven species of native fish, two of which are federally listed as threatened – the spikedace and loach minnow. The lush riparian area and towering canyon walls are also home to over 200 species of birds, bighorn sheep, coati, black bear, and others.

Our work: Sky Island Alliance has been working for several years with TNC and other partners to remove invasive periwinkle (Vinca major) and restore the riparian understory. On the east end of the canyon, the plant covers nearly 100 acres, but it does not currently extend very far downstream into the BLM Wilderness Area. Vinca invades riparian areas and interferes with natural hydrological processes including infiltration of precipitation and alteration of natural flood patterns. Vinca also suppresses the naturally highly-diverse native riparian understory by choking out individual plants, including seedlings of the native riparian trees. A diverse native understory is required to support the wide variety of insects in the canyon, including those that are food sources for native fishes.

In addition, Sky Island Alliance volunteers and staff have made several trips into the canyon to assess the incredible springs found in the canyon and its tributaries.

Volunteers manually remove Vinca from the banks of Aravaipa Creek


A spring in a tributary of the creek.


Visit: Pedestrian access to the TNC’s preserve is allowed only with prior authorization from Aravaipa Canyon Preserve staff. In the Wilderness Area, a permit is required to hike, backpack, and hunt in Aravaipa Canyon and all the side canyons. Access is available both from the west side, near Mammoth, and the east side, near Klondyke.


TNC Aravaipa Canyon Preserve

Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness