||Birding near Benson
Kartchner Caverns State Park
In addition to the caverns, this new Arizona state park offers a Discovery Center, campground, above-ground hiking trails, and a hummingbird garden. The hummingbird garden attracts many beautiful butterflies as well as birds and is listed as an attractive butterfly viewing location by the Southeast Arizona Butterfly Association. The park is also an access point to the Guindani Trail Loop where you will find birds of the desert and lower elevation oak woodlands. Located on Highway 90, about 10 miles south of the #302 exit from Interstate 10, Kartchner Caverns State Park is open daily, 7:30 am to 6 pm. An entrance day-use fee of $l0 per vehicle (4 people) secures admission to the park including Discovery Center, picnic grounds and hiking.
Holy Trinity Monastery Bird Sanctuary
The beautiful garden of the Holy Trinity Monastery is an established bird sanctuary with shaded walks and placid ponds. Birders are invited to walk the 1.3 mile trail around ponds fed by artesian springs. Adjacent to the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area near St. David, south of Benson on Highway 80. Free
Continuing south on Highway 80 you can reach the Fairbank access to the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.
San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area
Bureau of Land Management
The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, forty miles of riparian vegetation, supports an abundance of plants and animals. It is one of the premier birding areas in the nation. The SPRNCA runs along the San Pedro River, from the Mexican border almost to Benson and has 10 access points. A network of trails running the length of the Conservation Area is a magnet for bird lovers. This riparian area is home to over 100 species and is on the migratory path of many more. In all over four hundred species have been sighted. Raptors include gray hawk, Swainson's hawk, Mississippi kite, and crested caracara. Upland and songbirds include the ground dove, scaled quail, northern cardinal and summer tanager.
There is a parking area along the San Pedro River at Fairbank (south of Benson). Take Highway 80 south from Benson, through St. David and down to Highway 82. Take 82 west to Fairbank. There you'll find a ghost town and several hiking trails. Other entrances to the SPRNCA are at Charleston Road , Hereford Road, and Palominas (Hwy 92). Call the Sierra Vista Convention and Visitors Bureau for a free birder's guide. (800) 288-3861 or (520) 458-6940 Free
Dragoon Mountains (520) 364-3468
Coronado National Forest, Douglas Ranger District
Though the Cochise Stronghold is the most well-known site in the Dragoon Mountains, there are many other less-travelled areas of equal interest. The granite outcrops that characterize the range are home to Mexican jays, prairie falcon, turkey vulture and golden eagle. Drive east from Benson along the interstate through Texas Canyon to Dragoon Road. Take Dragoon Road east. You will find various forest roads branching off to the south. Depending on the capabilities of your vehicle you can take your pick of interesting routes. The maps published by the Forest Service are helpful in finding the less-known trails.
Muleshoe Cooperative Management Area (520) 586-7072
Seven perennial streams provide some of the best aquatic habitat in Arizona. Rrugged canyons and riparian areas attract many birds including zone-tail, black and Cooper's hawks, Gambel's quail and pygmy owls. Many species of mammals and reptiles are also to be found here, including javelina, coatimundi, and rock squirrel. Although the preferred route is from Willcox it is possible to get to Muleshoe from Benson by taking Cascabel Road to Three Lines Road and taking Three Lines Road east to Muleshoe Road. From there take Muleshoe Road northwest.