Santa Cruz River (Arizona)

The Santa Cruz River (English: "Holy Cross River"; Spanish: Río Santa Cruz) is a tributary river to the Gila River in Southern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico. It is approximately 184 miles (296 km) long.[1]

Santa Cruz River
The Santa Cruz River near Red Rock.
CountriesUnited States, Mexico
StatesArizona, Sonora
Physical characteristics
  locationSan Rafael Valley
Gila River
Length184 miles (296 km)


The Santa Cruz has its headwaters in the high intermontane grasslands of the San Rafael Valley to the southeast of Patagonia, Arizona, between the Canelo Hills to the east and the Patagonia Mountains to the west, just north of the international border. It flows southward into Mexico past Santa Cruz, Sonora and turns westward around the south end of the Sierra San Antonio near Miguel Hidalgo (San Lázaro), thence north-northwest to reenter the United States just to the east of Nogales and southwest of Kino Springs. It then continues northward from the international border past the Tumacacori National Historical Park, Tubac, Green Valley, Sahuarita, San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Marana, and Picacho Peak State Park to the Santa Cruz Flats just to the south of Casa Grande and the Gila River. Between Nogales and Tucson the river valley is flanked by the San Cayetano and Santa Rita Mountains on the east and the Atascosa, Tumacacori, and Sierrita Mountains on the west.


Most of the Santa Cruz River is usually a dry riverbed, unless the area receives significant rainfall. This was not always the case, but a combination of human errors and natural catastrophes in the late nineteenth century led to the decline of the Santa Cruz.[2]

The city of Nogales, Sonora, has been releasing treated sewage into the Santa Cruz River. This has resulted in the revival of several miles of riverbank within and north of the city of Nogales, Arizona.[3]

The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail parallels much of the Santa Cruz. In Marana, there are approximately ten paved miles of multi-use recreational path along the Santa Cruz, located on Tangerine Road and through the Gladden Farms community park.

See also


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