March 25, 2018
I keep thinking we've seen all there is to see along the San Pedro River, but then I stumble on the history of Boquillas Ranch, and I begin to see how all the pieces fit together — the early exploration by the Spanish, massive land grants after Mexican independence in 1821, the Apache wars beginning in the 1840s through the 1870s and the peace treaty signed at Council Rocks in 1872 and the discovery of gold near Tombstone in 1871, followed by a flood of Anglo-American settlers into southern Arizona.
The Little Boquillas Ranch was part of the massive San Juan de las Boquillas y Nogales land grant, which was granted to the family of Rafael Elias Gonzales by the Mexican government in 1833, but it was abandoned in the 1840s. As mining boom towns sprouted along the San Pedro in the 1880s, the area was snapped up by the Hearst family — yes, that Hearst family — and it eventually became part of the Kern County Land and Cattle Company, a large mining and ranching conglomerate based in California. Ownership of the area was the object of a protracted legal dispute, further depopulating an area that was hard hit after a major earthquake centered in Sonora flood the mines in Tombstone.
Ranching continued here until 1971, and in 1986 ownership passed to the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.