Santa Cruz River

"The Santa Cruz River begins near the Patagonia Mountains. The river flows south into Mexico, turns westward and flows back up north through Nogales and Tucson to the Santa Cruz flats. Originally the river was a green environment hosting a wide variety of wildlife such as fish, birds, beavers and grizzly bears." Indigenous people used the river for water. Later the river was used to water cattle and irrigate crops.

When groundwater pumping rose significantly during the 1940s, thus lowering the water table, the river began to turn into a dry riverbed. While the Santa Cruz River still flows near the headwaters in the Patagonia Mountains, in Tucson the river typically flowed only during or after a heavy rain. Something that occurred most often during the summer monsoon season.

In June 2019, Tucson Water began discharging reclaimed water into the Santa Cruz River. Water can now be seen in a stretch of the river more often thanks to the Santa Cruz River Heritage Project, opens a new window goal of water flow "approximately to between Cushing and Congress Streets."


Grossman, Djamila. "Growth changed Santa Cruz River permanently, opens a new window" Arizona Daily Star. November 24, 2005.

City of Tucson Santa Cruz River Heritage Project, opens a new window |

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