Last Tuesday, August 3rd, I had the privilege of joining my friends Philip Kline, Margarethe Brummermann, and Fred Heath in Brown Canyon on the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in western Pima County, Arizona. I also made new friends in Ken Kertell, Jake Mohlmann, and a couple from Cincinnati: John and Samantha.
Recent rains left Brown Canyon anything but “brown.” Wildflowers, butterflies, and dragonflies all added dashes of color to this unique landscape. In fact, reds, pinks (like the Fendler’s Globemallow below), oranges, and yellows were among the dominant colors of the surprisingly lush blooms of flowers.
There was still water in the upper reaches of the canyon, and a succession of pools in the scoured bedrock were patrolled by dragonflies including the Filagree Skimmer, a Giant Darner, and this Meadowhawk (Sympetrum sp.).
Most of those on this trip were looking for birds and butterflies and they were richly rewarded. Fifty-two species of butterflies and skippers were observed, including this Fatal Metalmark, Calephelis nemesis.
The canyon itself is very scenic, and steeped in a rich human history. Buildings, rusting cattle tanks, and even an old windmill are strewn throughout the landscape, and an old road and rock walls run parallel to the streambed. Not all the human habitations are derelict, however, as there is a very nice environmental education center complete with lodging for visitors.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is quite serious about regulating tourist traffic in Brown Canyon, and it cost our party $40 to visit for the day. We had to obtain a code for the keypad that opens the gate, and it took two tries to get all three of our vehicles through before the gate closed automatically behind us!
I heartily recommend a visit to this wonderful area, but strongly suggest that you watch the weather reports and make your trip after a good monsoon rainfall if you want to see the best of the flora and fauna. Remember to take plenty of water, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a broad-brimmed hat for maximum comfort during your hike.