​​Want to join us in Aravaipa Canyon for a weekend pulling vinca, making friends, exploring the preserve, and sleeping under the stars? Here’s what you can expect.

Sky Island Alliance has helped The Nature Conservancy in Aravaipa Canyon increase watershed health along this perennial riparian area for several years. Most recently, we’ve been working to address the threat of invasive periwinkle (Vinca major) throughout the canyon.

During a typical trip to Aravaipa Canyon, you can expect to continue this work to eradicate periwinkle from the riparian understory of the creek banks. On some trips, if there has been recent rain, we will also install new native plants in some of the areas previous volunteers have worked.

This work requires fastidious removal of vegetative material and roots with tools provided by Sky Island Alliance and lots of hole digging for new plants. On any given trip, you can expect to bend, cut, dig, get dirty, get wet, stand in the sun, soak in the rain, fend off mosquitoes—and genuinely have fun!

Project Contact: Bryon Lichtenhan, Stewardship Specialist ([email protected])

Covid Precautions

To keep our volunteers and staff safe, we’re currently taking these precautions:

  • Limiting the group size to 14 volunteers. If you’d like to bring kids, please contact us first.
  • Driving separately. You can either meet us there or caravan with us from SIA’s office. If we need to get around the preserve, we’ll carpool with windows down and masks on.
  • Camping and having each household bring their own food, camping gear, and cooking gear.
  • You’ll get your own tools to use for the duration of the weekend, and we’ll stay safely spaced out while working.
  • Keep a mask handy in your pocket at all times.
  • Working outside, of course!
  • Wearing masks inside the bathroom and wiping down surfaces with sanitizer after each use.
  • Bring your own work gloves.
  • We’ll have a thermometer available in case anyone starts feeling off.

What to Expect

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has donated the use of the Aravaipa Canyon Preserve guesthouse, nestled right along Aravaipa Creek. Because of Covid-19, we’ll all be camping but will have access to a bathroom. Some other things to note:

  • Bring your own meals for the weekend—a minimum of 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 2 dinners with snacks.
  • Potable water is available onsite.
  • Be prepared to unplug; there is no cellphone or internet service at Aravaipa Canyon.
  • Bring work clothes and appropriate shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty and wet. You will also want sandals, water shoes, or rain boots for our work in the creek.
  • We have extra camping gear available to borrow. Please contact our staff listed below if you would like to use some of our equipment.
  • Unfortunately, pets are not allowed on our Aravaipa trips.

Please note that we work at The Nature Conservancy Aravaipa Canyon Preserve, not in the BLM Aravaipa Wilderness Area. You may not enter the BLM Wilderness Area without a permit.


Aravaipa Canyon is located in the northern Galiuro Mountains and only a few miles from the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness. The Preserve is only 50 miles northeast of Tucson as the bird flies (approx. 3 to 3.5 hours drive from Tucson or Phoenix).

With over ten miles of perennial water, Aravaipa Canyon is a rare riparian jewel in southern Arizona; it is an important tributary to the Lower San Pedro River. We always see a variety of wildlife in Aravaipa Canyon, you will want your binoculars!

We will be working on the east side of the canyon, at the headwaters of the perennial creek.

Getting There

During monsoon season, a high-clearance vehicle is strongly encouraged. There are 2-3 wet wash crossings (yes, there is perennial water!) before arriving at the guesthouse. That said, most cars can make it to the guesthouse.

Example Itinerary

All our volunteer trips to Aravaipa run from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening, unless otherwise noted. (Sometimes we do longer trips over holiday weekends.) Here is a sample of what the timing for a volunteer trip with us might look like:

  • Friday at 1:45 p.m. — meet Sky Island Alliance staff at our office in Tucson to carpool to the TNC guesthouse. If you would like to meet us at the guesthouse, you may drive there separately and arrive any time after 5 p.m.
  • Friday at 5 p.m. — arrive at the TNC guesthouse and set up camp for the evening. Group introductions and dinner will follow before tucking in for the night.
  • Saturday at 8:30 a.m. — be prepared to go over the day’s work and head out. Bring snacks, water, sunscreen, and bug spray.
  • Saturday at 12 p.m. — break for lunch back at the guesthouse. Extra time will be allotted so you can take a stroll or catch a quick nap.
  • Saturday at 1:30 p.m. — return to the creek to pull more vinca or plant native flora.
  • Saturday at 5 p.m. — return to the guesthouse for the evening.
  • Sunday at 8:30 a.m. — be prepared to go over the morning’s work and head out. We only work half a day on Sunday, so we’ll get a few more hours of work in.
  • Sunday at 12 p.m. — return to the guesthouse for lunch. If you drove here separately, you can pack up and leave at any time.
  • Sunday at 2 p.m. — Sky Island Alliance staff and carpoolers will pack up and head back to Tucson.
  • Sunday at 6 p.m. — we are generally back to our Tucson office by 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Want to join us on an upcoming volunteer trip to Aravaipa Canyon? We schedule three or four vinca removals every season and would love to have you with us. Check our calendar for details!