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June 21, 2012

Ramsey Canyon Preserve is natural landmark

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City of Sierra Vista

The James family’s first home was this cabin in Ramsey Canyon

Ramsey Canyon and the Nature Conservancy’s Ramsey Canyon Preserve are both internationally renowned for the birds and wildlife inhabiting and migrating through the canyon. With 14 species of hummingbirds generally sighted from March through September, the butterfly garden attracting hundreds of species from mid-summer through late autumn, and vast numbers of wildlife species living in the forested property, Ramsey Canyon Preserve is considered by many one of the premier areas in Arizona, appealing to hikers and naturalists.

Guided tours are held March through October on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 9 a.m. The Preserve is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Admission is $5 for outside visitors; $3 for Cochise County residents and Nature Conservancy members; children under 16 are admitted free; and no admission fee is charged on the first Saturday of each month.

Rufous hummingbird

Lesser known is the history of the canyon, and that Ramsey Canyon Preserve was designated a “Natural Landmark” in 1963 – the first such designation by the U.S. National Park Service.

The first recorded settler and the canyon’s namesake, Gardner Ramsey, arrived in 1879. He is best remembered for turning the only access road leading to Hamburg, and that town’s booming mining activity, into a nearly 3-mile toll road.

At the turn of the 20th century, the canyon’s population was at its peak. But mining began to decline and James Berner, a German immigrant, began purchasing the departing parties’ property. In time and in failing health, Berner gave his medical caretaker, Dr. Nelson Bledsoe, one-half interest in his canyon assets as payment. After Berner’s death in 1922, the doctor bought the balance of Berner’s holdings and became the majority owner of a canyon packed with objectionable characters, run-down mining shacks, and a honky-tonk dance hall.

While the upper canyon was owned primarily by the Bledsoes, the acreage toward the mouth of the canyon was owned by several families.

In 1960, the Peabody family purchased 20 acres where the preserve’s Visitor Center now stands. It was under the care of the Peabodys that Ramsey Canyon became known as a wildlife “sanctuary.” As a result of their efforts in preservation and environmental concerns, the Peabody’s property was designated the first Natural Landmark.

In 1975, Dr. Bledsoe died and left his land holdings in Ramsey Canyon to the Nature Conservancy; the Conservancy purchased the Peabody’s adjoining acres, thus completing what is now Ramsey Canyon Preserve.

For information, maps and brochures, visit the Sierra Vista Visitor Center in the Oscar Yrun Community Center, 3020 E. Tacoma Street or call the Visitor Center at 417.6960.




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