Prospective Patagonia, Arizona Field Base

Bellows has explored the Patagonia, Arizona borderland area of the American Southwest for its potential to be a future field base.


Patagonia (population 900), at an elevation of 4,050 feet, lies in a narrow valley between the Santa Rita Mountains, which peak at 9,453 feet and and the Patagonia Mountains, which peak at 7,221 feet, at the intersection of Harshaw Creek and Sonoita Creek. Accordingly, the riparian habitat created by the confluence of these creeks provided ideal conditions for clusters of ancient settlements with ruins and petroglyphs of the Anasazi leaving their mark.

The Santa Rita Mountains have the Smithsonian-sponsored Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory at Mt. Hopkins available for astronomy.


The first presence of the Spaniards occurred in 1539 and a century and a half later, the Jesuit priest Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino traveled through the region, establishing one of his visitas—–overnight houses located between the larger missions—–in nearby Sonoita. In 1853, the Gadsden Purchase made the corner of southeastern Arizona, then part of Mexico, a part of the United States, leading to the break-up of vast Spanish land grants by homesteaders, ranchers and miners. Cattle ranching, mining and the railroads have come and gone, leaving Patagonia as a hybrid borderland culture with a population that is over half of Hispanic origin, consisting of shopkeepers, artists, craftspersons, former cowboys, vaqueros, miners and retirees.


The Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, a world-famous riparian habitat. Home to 300 bird species and a rare Fremont cottonwood-Goodding willow riparian forest and rare plant life. The riparian habitat continues on to Patagonia Lake.


The San Rafael Valley is a rolling savanna of grass, oak and mesquite that was among the places where grassland plants and animals survived during the ice ages—-an ecosystem of great diversity.

Patagonia is 18 miles north of the U.S./Mexico border and one hour’s drive south of the Tucson International Airport. The surrounding Coronado National Forest provides Patagonia with a sense of seclusion and, yet proximity to a major airport.

The Spirit Tree Inn, Patagonia, Arizona.
spirit tree
The 55-acre Spirit Tree Inn, three miles south of Patagonia, has a capacity of 25, two classrooms and a wireless Internet connection.

Experimenting with student housing:  This finished yurt is 20 feet in diameter and can house five students comfortably.

The Bellows Institute’s 14-passenger van.