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National Heritage Area

The Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area is a natural and cultural landscape shaped by generations of people from diverse cultural origins. Tumacácori National Historical Park and other visitor experiences here embody this spirit.

Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area

This 3,300-square-mile landscape is nationally recognized for its natural, historical and multicultural heritage

The Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area of Southern Arizona encompasses the watershed of the Santa Cruz River – from Nogales and Patagonia, through Tucson, to Marana and Oro Valley – an ancient and still vital trade route, home to Arizona’s earliest civilizations and a bounty of natural and historical assets. The boundary marks an area shaped by generations of people from diverse cultures and communities with special stories to tell. The distinctive stories of these communities form the fabric of the experiences available here.

There are 10 heritage experiences, which are unique among existing National Heritage Areas, that highlight this area's varied natural beauty and cultural history:

    Distinctive stories of Southern Arizona's Santa Cruz Valley:

    • Sky Islands and Desert Seas
    • Streams in the Desert
    • Bird Habitat and Migration Routes
    • Native American Lifeways 
    • Desert Farming
    • Ranching Traditions 
    • Spanish and Mexican Frontier 
    • Mining Booms
    • U.S. Military Posts on the Mexico Border 
    • U.S.-Mexico Border Culture



    Telling America’s story

    Visitors to the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area enjoy outdoor recreation, bird-watching, astronomy, heritage site tours, and local wineries and heritage foods. Attractions like the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, which parallels the Santa Cruz River,  appeal to travelers of all ages seeking a respite from bustling city life. Other attractions include: Catalina State Park, Saguaro National Park, Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tubac artist colony, Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, Tumacacori National Historical Park, Historic Canoa Ranch, Wild Chile Botanical Area, Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, Patagonia Lake State Park, Madera Canyon and the Santa Rita Mountains, and San Rafael State Park and Natural Area

    Santa Cruz Valley Heritage Alliance

    National Heritage Areas (NHA) are designated by Congress as a place where natural, cultural, historic and recreational resources combine to form nationally distinctive landscapes. There are 55 NHAs in 34 states (as of March 2019). The Santa Cruz Valley Heritage Alliance is the non-profit organization mandated by the enabling legislation to serve as the local coordinating entity for the Santa Cruz Valley Heritage Area. This alliance of local governments, non-profit organizations, and businesses uniquely poised to coordinate and implement heritage-based economic and community development is an advocate for this region's valuable heritage.

    Local heritage conservation, promotion, and education projects supported by the National Heritage Area:

    • Increase heritage and nature tourism and grow tourism-related economic impact
    • Develop heritage education programs
    • Promote local foods, crafts, and other traditional products
    • Riparian restoration
    • Rehabilitation of historic buildings
    • Improve the quality of life for residents by instilling a sense of place
    • And more! 

    We invite you to visit and experience this region's heritage lodging, destinations, food traditions, and annual events.