Madera Canyon is a large watershed on the northwest flank of the Santa Rita Mountains in southern Arizona. The Santa Ritas are just north of the Mexican border, and the tremendous biodiversity within the canyon reflects that fact. More than 250 species of birds have been recorded here, along with a long list of mammal species and abundant plant life. This photograph shows the forested canyon floor beneath the towering high point of the Santa Ritas, Mount Wrightson.
Along with tumbleweed, cactus, and cowboys, roadrunners are among the most famous of western icons. Most people would be surprised to learn that it’s a member of the Cuckoo family. They run down their prey which include insects, small mammals, and even rattlesnakes. This Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) was photographed in the Tucson Mountains, Arizona.
The grassy San Rafael Valley sits right along the Mexican border in Santa Cruz County, Arizona. It is a high, intermontane valley that, because of the excellent stewardship of the local ranchers over the years, survives largely intact as a grassland ecosystem. The range has not suffered the degradation often seen elsewhere, such as invasion of exotic weeds or cactus, and has not been overgrazed. This photograph shows where the eastern reaches of the valley meet the western slopes of the Huachuca Mountains.
After an endless succession of dry, cloudless days, the occasional cloudy day brings a welcome break in the monotony. On one recent October day, it remained sunless until just before the very end, but as the day drew to a close, the sun staged this unanticipated spectacle over the high desert grassland near Mescal in Cochise County, Arizona.
With a bit of elevation, the complexity of the Southwestern landscape becomes more apparent. Given enough time, it’s possible to gain some sense of the lay of the land. It’s only a generalized sense however; the intricacies of the mountain ranges, the maze of canyons, and the web of draws, washes, and arroyos defy the mind’s ability to grasp. The land does not reveal its mystery, and it remains ultimately unknowable. The photo was taken at Windy Point in the Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona, facing east.