An interpretive trail sign in Smith Canyon shows the cats of the Sky Islands. Photo by Lynn Davison

The final interpretive sign was placed on the Smith Canyon Loop Trail, north of Patagonia, in December. Like the other nine signs, this one is part of a larger vision to make the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve welcoming and educational for visitors. 

The Smith Canyon Loop was the first trail within the Preserve. It was designed and constructed by the Dirt Baggers, a local volunteer trail building crew, who also installed the signs and several strategically placed benches on the trail. It‘s an easy to moderate 2.3-mile loop with beautiful views of Mount Wrightson, Red Mountain, several ridge lines and canyons, and a lovely oak bosque. 

Borderlands staff, Wildlife Corridors managers, and Chris and Mary Strohm envisioned the project and determined the topics for the ten signs. Each sign had a primary author. For example, Cholla Nicholl wrote the language for the wildlife sign and Patagonia Creative Arts provided drawings from local children; Ron Pulliam wrote the language for the biodiversity sign; and two representatives from the Tohono O’Odham Nation wrote the language for the Land Recognition sign. All the signs are in both Spanish and English. Shannon Billegas, a graphic artist, was the sign designer. Rock Art Signs and Makers manufactured the signs. The whole project has taken about 18 months. 

The interpretive signs and the kiosk at the south entrance to the property at Wildlife Haven are the first phase of signage for the Preserve. In 2022 the Discovery Trail will be built around the south Kiosk area. It will also have interpretive signs and be ADA accessible. A second kiosk will also be built at the north entrance at Casa Blanca Canyon. 

For Wildlife Corridors, who owns the Preserve, and for Borderlands Restoration Network, who manages the maintenance, restoration, and education on it, their goals are to permanently protect a critical section of the corridor for wildlife traveling between the Sierra Madre in Mexico and the Santa Rita mountains, as well as to offer a place for people to be in nature, learn about the plants and animals we share it with, appreciate the history of the region and the people who have lived on the land, and understand how conservation, restoration, and education are all key to assuring the remarkable natural resources of the borderlands region remain for our childrens’ grandchildren to enjoy. The signage is an important step in achieving these goals. 

The partners of this project encourage you to take a walk on the Smith Canyon Loop Trail, appreciate the interpretive signs, the beauty of the landscape, and the occasional wildlife sighting.