The San Francisco River Featured as Arizona River of the Month

The river supports unique species and rural communities in Arizona and New Mexico

San Francisco River near Clifton, Az

This week the San Francisco River was profiled as the “River of the Month” in a year-long series celebrating Arizona’s centennial year. The river profile released today by five conservation groups is the ninth in the “Celebrating Arizona’s Rivers” series, which raises awareness about the ecology and geology of rivers in Arizona as well as the uses they serve and the threats they face.

The 160-mile-long San Francisco River originates in Arizona’s White Mountains and flows east into New Mexico, flowing through the remote San Francisco Box Canyon. It continues south along the Arizona and New Mexico border until it makes a 90-degree turn back into Arizona, just south of the San Francisco Hot Springs. It is then joined by the Blue River and flows past the copper mining town of Clifton. The San Francisco continues southwest and joins the Gila River in the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area, a 23,000-acre preserve that protects unique habitat and wildlife.

“In a landscape increasingly fragmented by development, the watersheds of the San Francisco and its largest tributary, the Blue River, serve as a biological refuge of largely undisturbed riparian habitat where diverse, rare species of plants and wildlife thrive,” say the conservation organizations in the River of the Month profile.

The San Francisco’s year-round flows and surrounding landscape support many endangered species including the Southwestern willow flycatcher, Chiricahua leopard frog, and Mexican grey wolf. While the river is relatively undisturbed, it is still threatened by a variety of activities including impacts from off-road vehicles and removal of native vegetation.

Rural communities depend on the health of the watershed for municipal water supply and recreational uses, and efforts are underway to restore and protect the San Francisco River. These efforts include watershed mapping, re-introduction of native fish populations, increased enforcement of off-road vehicle regulations, fencing and stream protection efforts, invasive species removal, and volunteer tree-planting and river clean-up events.

The River of the Month series profiles one of Arizona’s rivers each month. It is produced by Environmental Defense Fund, Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, Sonoran Institute, and Western Resource Advocates, with technical assistance provided by the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center. Previous profiles—starting with a feature of the iconic Colorado River—may be downloaded from Environmental Defense Fund, Sonoran Institute, or Western Resource Advocates, and interested groups and individuals may sign up here to receive a notification when a new profile is released.

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