Protecting the Santa Cruz River

Santa Cruz River: current state

By: Sheila Slaughter

The monsoon exceeded expectations, according to The Nogales International. As of August 29th, the average rainfall in Santa Cruz County, extracted from a number of different rain gauges was 15.2 inches.

The rain continued through September. There was a lot of water in the Santa Cruz River, and the occasional raw sewage from flooding in Sonora, Mexico. There is still a lot of trash and bottle dams.

In some spots, there was flooding, especially in flat areas with a high water table, such as the Tumacacori National Historic Park and south of the Guy Tobin Trailhead in Rio Rico. The river shifted its course, meandering in new directions.

The monsoon rains also created glorious growth, masses of wildflowers, and twinning vines, such as old man’s beard, and all colors and kinds of morning glories, that seem to knit the heavy ground growth together.

On the trail, the dominant plant seemed to be the Amaranthus. It is also known as careless weed and pigweed. It got the opportunity to grow tall and dense, making walking difficult at times.

Amaranthus close up


FOSCR has long-run Santa Cruz River clean-ups. However, the pandemic slowed us down. The last big cleanup was in November 2019 (see photo below). We have continued to spot trash clean-ups when we find relatively small areas of concentrated trash. If you are interested in helping, you can sign up, and we will contact you when an opportunity occurs.

We plan to work with Jessy Yolanda Zamoranao, who founded Santa Cruz Shining Arizona, an organization founded this year after looking at so much trash in our area.

The goals of Santa Cruz Shining are:

  • Partnerships. (Current partners include Keep America Beautiful; Keep Arizona Beautiful.)
  • Community Education. (Reaching out to schools, boys and girls clubs, community organizations, and religious organizations, using social media, addressing illegal dumping.)
  • Santa Cruz River clean-up using a grant from South32 (which concerns FOSCR as mining operations endanger water course)

More Concerns

South32 Hermosa Project in Patagonia AZ

Of concern to everyone who cares about the Santa Cruz River is the development of South32 Hermosa/Taylor Underground Mine, currently under development near Patagonia. The zinc and lead, which are the focus of the first phase of the development, are surrounded by water. To obtain the minerals, South32 plans to pump 6.5 million gallons of water a day into Harshaw Creek, from where it will flow into Sonoita Creek, and onward to the Santa Cruz River. It is uncertain how these flows will be monitored, what they will do to the water supply in Santa Cruz County, and how they will affect the Santa Cruz River. FOSCR is represented by the chair of the Board of Directors, Dr. Ben Lomeli, a hydrologist, on the Patagonia Area Resource Alliance that meets with South32 Advisory Board.

River Watch

An ongoing project of FOSCR is River Watch. Since the organization began members have monitored the flow rates and quality of the Santa Cruz River every month at various points on the river, usually ending with a reading at Chavez Siding.

Thank you for reading and come back for more,

Sheila Slaughter, Member, Board of Directors

Friends of the Santa Cruz River

Tubac, Arizona


If you would like to help please email us at [email protected] or make a contribution to help our cause.

Friends of the Santa Cruz River