The Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area is the newest designated National Heritage Area in the U.S.
This designation, in December 2018, is dear to Marana because the Santa Cruz River defines the ancient and modern history in Marana and runs for 18 miles through the middle of our town. (Santa Cruz River watershed map courtesy Sonoran Institute)
This river is why the Tucson area (including Marana) was the first to be named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the U.S. Starting more than 4,000 years ago, the Santa Cruz River allowed for the introduction of large scale early agriculture, made possible by flood irrigation from the Santa Cruz River. The river supported complex ancient cultures, a unique riparian ecosystem, and a rich agricultural legacy that continues in Marana, with many local farms.
The Santa Cruz River is shaped like a fishhook. It begins in the San Rafael Valley near the U.S. and Mexico border and makes a hook, dipping into Mexico, before flowing in a fairly straight line northwest through Tucson and continuing for 18 miles through Marana. For more background visit Town of Marana and U.S. National Parks.
Fifteen Ways to Experience the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area (from North to South)
The State of Arizona's museum of Arizona history from Spanish colonial through territorial eras. Changing exhibitions highlight unique facets of Southwest history by focusing on Geronimo, Buffalo Soldiers, and many others.
(Tohono O'odham Reservation, south of downtown Tucson)
Continuing the farming tradition of their ancient ancestors here in Southern Arizona, the San Xavier Co-op Farm, on the Tohono O'odham Reservation, cultivates ancient crops such as tepary beans and squash, and sells wild foods harvested on the reservation, such as mesquite meal (ground from mesquite pods) and dried cholla buds. You can drop in at the Co-op Store and pick up these and other delicious Sonoran Desert foods fed by the Santa Cruz River watershed.
Tumacácori sits at a cultural crossroads in the Santa Cruz River valley. Here O’odham, Yaqui, and Apache people met and mingled with European Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries, settlers, and soldiers, sometimes in conflict and sometimes in cooperation.
Visit San Rafael State Natural Area, situated in a valley that extends over 90,000 acres and lies at the headwaters of the Santa Cruz River between the Patagonia Mountains, Huachuca Mountains, and the Canelo Hills.