Saturday, April 3, 2021

Our Time At Las Cienegas ( A Catch Up Post)

Sunday, March 14, 2021 through Monday Morning, March 22, 2021

We arrived here on Sunday afternoon greeted by Doug and Yuma, Miss Adventure Travels and we left on a Monday morning eight days later. Even though the grasslands are suffering from a lack of rain it was still a beautiful spot to spend these days parked next to the White Lion and its occupants. Except for the ride we took with Doug to Parker Lake and the Coronado National Monument plus a brief time on our last full day when we took a ride and exited on AZ-82 and re-entered on AZ-83 we never left the Conservation Area. We spent several mornings sitting outside enjoying our coffee while visiting with Doug along with Yuma and there were several Happy Hours where we did more visiting and chatting. While we were there we had a nice surprise when Nancy, Kissack Adventures, stopped by for a visit and that afternoon flew by. The weekend did bring in several large groups of ATVer's which brought noise and extra dust still it was a wonderfully calm way to spend these days. I had mentioned in another post we had visited these grasslands in the past but had never stayed; Tom and I are both glad we made the decision to park there this year. We both see more time spent there in our future. Not sure we would park in the same spot again and that would be because of the road in but then as they say never say never. You never know they could fix the road. 

Las Cienegas National Conservation Area is located in the beautiful rolling grasslands of Southeastern Arizona. The approximately 42,000-acre Las Cienegas National Conservation Area was designated by Congress in 2000. It is located in the transitional zone between the Sonoran Desert and the Chihuahuan Desert about 50 miles southeast of Tucson. There are two main access points to the NCA. The first is located of State Road 83 about seven miles north of Sonoita, and a less developed entrance located five miles east of Sonoita off State Road 82. The region’s oak-studded hills connect several "sky island" mountain ranges and lush riparian corridors. With its perennial flow, Cienega Creek forms the lifeblood of the NCA and supports a diverse plant and animal community. It is also rich in historic and cultural resources. 

Thanks to the efforts of local governments, elected officials and the public, the Empire and Cienega ranches, along with portions of the adjacent Rose Tree and Vera Earl ranches, are now under public ownership and managed by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the principles of multiple-use and ecosystem management for future generations to use and enjoy.  The BLM has formed a partnership with the nonprofit Empire Ranch Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving the historic buildings and surrounding landscapes. (If you would like to learn more about the history of the Empire Ranch click here.)

Cienega Creek gets its name from the cienegas, or marshes, which occur along its length. Unique and rare vegetative communities including five of the rarest habitat types in the American Southwest: cienegas (marshlands), cottonwood-willow riparian forests, sacaton grasslands, mesquite bosques, and semi-desert grasslands. The Las Cienegas NCA could also be a Mecca to fans of classic films about the old west. John Wayne, Barbara Stanwick, Charlton Heston, Paul Newman, Lee Marvin, Kirk Douglas, William Holden, Burt Lancaster, Shelley Winters, Jennifer Jones, Steve McQueen, Gregory Peck, Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Stewart and others have made such classic films as “Red River,” “Duel in the Sun,” “Hombre,” “Winchester 73,” “The Big Country” and many others on or near the Empire Ranch. (A list of shows and movies can be found here.)

The historic Empire Ranch remains a working cattle ranch, complete with enchanting old headquarters, now operates under an innovative rangeland management style unique to the area.

One of several Mesquite Bosque trees I spent taking pictures 
of in the area. They are all unique and beautiful in my eyes.
This one was my favorite.

One of our Happy Hours

The view out our front window.

Our Neighborhood.

We are parked down a road with a sign that says 
Oak Canyon and there is not an Oak Tree in sight.

On Saturday, March 20th, Doug showed us where they are.

More of the Oaks on this road.

We stopped at this point 

and turned around to head back to take another road.

More of the Mesquite Bosque Trees.

Doug and Yuma waiting for us to catch up.

We are off on this road which took us to the top of  a hill
where as we drove along overlooked the vast expanse of
grasslands all around us with mountains in the distance.

Mustang Mountains

Whetstone Mountains

This may be the only picture of a 
Century Plant I took this whole Adventure.

We are down now heading towards our home.

The sun has set on our day.

This was a good day. The ride was wonderful and the views breathtaking. The road up on the hill was narrow, twisty, with ups and downs but fairly smooth driving. It was coming down at the end that was pretty rugged and with our Trailhawk we did feel one scrap underneath. Doug did not have a problem with his Wrangler. It would not be a ride we would recommend unless you are trail rated which our Jeep is but still does not have the clearance needed all the time.  

On Sunday, March 21st, we took a ride on the main road 
through the area and stopped at the Cottonwood Pond.

Across the road there are some cottonwoods.

A little ways farther down the road we saw these guys

and then a little farther this momma with her babies. 
When I rolled down the window to take a picture she gave
me a loud "moo" but they all posed very nicely.

Then we saw this pronghorn all alone off a ways

I was able to get a picture and then we watched him 
head off away from the road.

Not long after seeing this guy we exited the Conservation Area onto AZ-83, drove west through Sonoita where we turned north on AZ-83 and re-entered the Conservation Area.
Those are the Whetstones in the distance.

We drove into the Empire Ranch Headquarters 
so I could take a picture of these Cottonwoods.
Then we headed home. 

Our last sunset in the openness of the grasslands.

Clouds to the North.

The last of the sun's light on the Whetstone Mountains.

The last of the sun's light framed this mesquite 
in beautiful colors.

Looking straight up a sliver of the moon.

The last of the light leaving our neighborhood.

On Monday morning, March 22nd I was up early determined to catch the sunrise but I was a little late; it was already peeking up over the mountain when I stepped out the door.

Looking towards the west in the early morning light.

It was our last morning parked out in the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area and like several other mornings we enjoyed our morning coffee visiting with Doug and Yuma. There was a slight breeze so we spent it inside the White Lion after getting the Stinger "B" all ready to roll.

All to soon it was time to say our see you laters and pull out. It was a special week parked out here and we are looking forward to the next time we look out and see these two walking up to our patio.

Doug and Yuma

I went ahead with the Jeep to make sure no one else with
a rig was coming in. This road is not wide enough for 
two rigs to go by each other.

Almost to the end of the road.

I had to include this one. 
From this distance the  Stinger "B" looks shiny and clean. 
Which is far from the reality. A short drive today to the
Quail Ridge RV Park and while there she will get a 
much needed bath and waxing. 

I stopped and took one last picture of 
the Whetstone Mountains in the distance.
If you enlarge the picture you will see the Stinger "B"
on the right side next to a tree coming just behind.

Today I was determined to get a decent picture of this metal
sign. I had my zoom lens on and stopped on the shoulder.
Maybe next year I will finally get a good one of the sign
 coming into Sonoita heading west.

Then I stopped and took this one.
Every once and a while you will see one of these metal 
sculptures out in the distance, all unique.

We are looking forward to our time at the Quail Ridge RV Park in Huachuca City.  It will be a time of cleaning some of the desert out of our home inside and out. Plus we will restock our supplies. We are looking forward to spending some time with friends, Elva and Jerry, who will be pulling in to the park today, also. At the same time it is bittersweet because we are saying goodbye to boondocking for this Adventure and we will miss the openness that we feel when we are in the desert or this grassland area. So we say goodbye to the desert for now and look ahead to the new adventures that await as we make our way east continuing  on this Adventure of living our retirement dream.

We are glad you stopped by! 
Our hope is you are celebrating a wonderful Easter with those you love.


  1. We don't boondock near as much as you do but it is just plain hard leaving any part of Arizona, New Mexico - the south for us. Enjoy Quail Ridge, not one of my favourites for a long stay but nice to be close to so many things. I love the Sonoita signs too and that cowboy has been rustling those cattle for a long time!
    Great pix of the calves nursing. Happy Easter!!🐇🐰🐰🐰

    1. It is always hard to make the decision to head east yet at the same time we look forward to being back in Michigan and seeing our kids and grandkids. Nice to have both choices.

  2. It's a beautiful area that makes me feel right at home. Too bad all the ATV's found it because they don't seem to care about making lots of noise and dust. Next time I'm down there I'm going to check out other parking spots too. I don't think they have fixed that road in at least three years. I hope you have a wonderful Easter Day.

    1. I would agree about the road, if anything it is worse then the last time we road down it. There is a place, you stay on the main road turning right instead of the left to where we were. It is up a small hill some friends told us about it. Easier access and no ATV's.

  3. Happy Easter you two! Hope you're enjoying wherever you are right now! Great catch up post! Love all the beautiful pictures!

  4. Beautiful. I appreciate all the photos. You always capture the beauty of my home state. I'm thankful for our RV friends. You all make me want to see first hand all AZ has to offer. Have a blessed day!

    1. Thank you, Elva. We are thankful for all our RV friends, also. It certainly is the best bonus as we enjoy this lifestyle.

  5. Wishing you both a Safe and Happy Easter and thanking you for reminding us of the beauty the southwest holds.

    It's about time.

  6. It's always nice to spend time in the desert and just as much fun to go back to civilization and clear out the sand and dust :-) We wish you both a very happy Easter.

    1. I would have to agree. The openness of the desert is wonderful and yet it is nice to have full hookups. Every once and awhile you need to make room for more