After a taking three days off from the road in Bisbee we have started our journey west to California along the Mexican border. Our first day of travel took as far as the Buenos Aires NWR which lies just west of Arivaca, AZ (pop. 700).
The BANWR was created in 1985 with the purchase of 117,464 acres of land. As with all of the 585 national wildlife refuges in the U.S. the land was purchased under the authority of the Endangered Species Act. In this particular case the endangered specie was the Masked Bobwhite Quail. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service which manages this refuge also reintroduced grasses that had vanished from the area and Pronghorn Antelope.
While the BANWR was created to protect an endangered specie this is public land and open for camping, hunting, horesback riding and hiking. We took advantage of the camping opportunity and were treated to a beautiful sunset and dark sky. We saw no other humans during our stay here. From a wildlife perspective we did not see any quail but did see our first javelinas of the trip.
From BANWR we traveled through the Tohono O’odham Nation Reservation. The T.O. Nation is a 2.8 million acre reservation with a current population of apx. 14,000. Tohono O’odham means “desert people”. In this case the desert is the Sonoran desert of southwestern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico.
The T.O. Nation extends into Mexico. The residents of T.O. consider the reservation to be one nation irrespective of the U.S. – Mexico border and believe they should be able to travel freely within the nation. The U.S. Border Patrol disagrees and this has resulted in an ongoing conflict between the two parties. Additionally, the Border Patrol wants unfettered access to the border within the reservation which the T.O. Nation is not willing to provide.
Politics aside, we were fortunate to travel through the reservation at a time when the Sonoran Desert is in full bloom. Purple, yellow and orange flowers lined the highway against a backdrop of cacti and mountains making for breathtaking scenery.
We stopped briefly in Ajo just west of the T.O. Nation before proceeding to Yuma. Ajo was another town which came into existence as a result of a large copper mining operation which is now defunct. The art work pictured below is part of an arts project in Ajo.