The settlements of Sonoita and Elgin were founded when the Santa Fe Railroad built an 88-mile-long line that ran the full length of Sonoita Creek, from Benson to Nogales, in 1882. Walking the elevated berm upon which the Railroad Trail is built is one of the many attractions of the area.
The Sonoita area's 4,970 foot elevation, high rolling grasslands, surrounded by spectacular mountains and canyons, provide some of Arizona's most beautiful weather and landscapes. Mount Wrightson, one of the tallest peaks in Arizona, dominates the horizon.
A rich and varied human history is a magnet for archeologists, anthropologists and others tantalized by the historical mosaic. Limited archaeological investigations have revealed the presence of several prehistoric cultures including Archaic sites dating from 2000 BC to 500 BC, Hohokam sites from 900 to 1400 AD, and possible Sobaipuri sites.
Sonoita and Elgin's rich ranching history dates back to the 1800s when as many as 3,000 head of cattle a day were shipped from local ranches by rail to markets in the East. Fort Buchanan and Fort Crittenden were established in the area in 1857-1867 to protect settlers from marauding Apaches. Ranching is still an active industry with some families working the same land for five generations.
Filmmakers have chosen the charming old west atmosphere and beauty of the Sonoita area for several films including, "Oklahoma," "Red River," and more recently,
"Tin Cup," "The Young Guns," "The Fantastiks," "Broken Lance," "Tom Horn" and television series such as, "The Young Riders" and "Gunsmoke."
Sonoita, Arizona's Wine Country is home to several wineries that offer some of the best wines found outside of France. These vineyards represent a rapidly growing industry, which began some four decades in the Sonoita Valley. Each vineyard produces unique vintages which reflect the personalities and attitudes of their owners, from colorful picnic-style wine to serious award winning varietals.
The Empire Cienega Ranch, once one of the largest and most prosperous cattle operations in the southwest, is now managed by the Bureau of Land Management as an antelope preserve, which is open to the public. Its historic building and corrals, including the ranch house which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, are being restored and preserved in order to understand the culture and history of ranching life in this area.
You could be the next dino discoverer! An undergraduate student discovered the SONORASAURUS in 1994. He traced small bone fragments up a wash in oak-juniper country, to a ridge top, and then, EUREKA, to a large piece of bone embedded in the sandstone. Happy hunting!
Santa Rita Abbey
In a remote abbey near the Santa Ritas, you'll find the sisters of the Cisterian Order. Each week the dozen sisters, who reside there, manufacture 180,000 wafers in their
Altar Bread Bakery. Lodging in this remote and beautiful setting is available by reservations. Call (520) 455-5595 for additional information.
Arizona’s Wine Country: Local Vineyards
Elgin, Arizona’s Wine Country, is home to several wineries that offer some of the best wines found outside of France. These vine- yards represent a rapidly growing industry, which began some four decades in the Sonoita Valley. Each Vineyard produces unique vintages, which reflect the personalities and attitudes of their owners, from colorful picnic-style wine to serious award winning varietals.
For a complete list of wineries in Sonoita & Elgin, please visit Arizona Wine Travel Card at www.az.winetravelcard.com
For more information, please call the Nogales-Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce Tourism & Visitor Center at (520) 287-3685.