- The San Bernardino NWR is located on the U.S., Mexican border in Cochise County, Arizona, 17 miles east of the City of Douglas. Situated at 3,720 to 3,920 feet elevation in the bottom of a wide valley, the refuges encompasses a portion of the headwaters of the Yaqui River, a major river system which drains western Chihuahua and eastern Sonora, Mexico.
San Bernardino NWR was established for the protection of endangered and threatened native fishes of the Yaqui River. The refuge consists primarily of desert grassland, Chihuahuan desert scrub and mesquite bosque. Black Draw which flows through the middle of the refuge supports a diverse riparian forest of Fremont cottonwood and black willow. Numerous ponds and cienegas are found on the refuge next to the artesian wells which supply water to support the native fishes on the refuge.
The area included in the San Bernardino NWR has had a colorful history due principally to the presence of water. During the 1700's Jesuit priests were in the area for missionary purposes. The San Bernardino Land Grant was established in 1822 but was abandoned 10 years later due to constant attacks by the Apaches.
The area was a stopover spot for pioneers during the mid-1800's. "Texas" John Slaughter purchased the land grant in 1887 and built his home on the grant. Several military forces passed through while looking for a southern railroad route. Between 1914 and 1919, cavalry encampments were present to protect settlers from raids by Pancho Villa.
These events have left their mark on the landscape of the San Bernardino area through vegetation changes and man-made structures.
Recreation - Recreational activities include bird watching, photography and hiking, as well as dove, quail and cottontail rabbit hunting in season.
Climate - You can expect mild winters with warm days (60° to 70°) and cool nights (around 40°). Summers can be extremely hot with daytime temperatures of 100° to 115° and evening lows in the 80s.
From Douglas, Arizona, take Highway 191 north to mile marker 11. About 1/4 mile past milepost take paved road to the east for 1 mile to refuge office complex.