Essence of Place – San Pedro Riparian Area

San Pedro Riparian Area

River Reflection © 2014 Bo Mackison

On a visit to San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area, I again captured the essence of the area in a few select photographs.

When I visit a natural area, I make a point of taking a variety of photographs including landscapes, intimate landscapes, portraits (wildlife or people), macro-photographs, abstracts, and details which capture the essence and personality of the place. I capture the essence of the place using one or two photographs in each of the categories.


The above photograph, the river with reflected trees, is abstract in feel. But it gives a feel for the area — river dependent, tall trees along the river banks, a quiet place.


The next two photographs, black and whites of the San Pedro River and its riparian corridor, are typical landscape photographs.

San Pedro Riparian Area

San Pedro River © 2014 Bo Mackison

The San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area encompasses a desert riparian ecosystem – a river flowing through a desert – rare now but once common throughout the US Southwest. Tall trees – mostly cottonwoods and willows – hug the river banks.

San Pedro River

San Pedro River © 2014 Bo Mackison

The San Pedro River is one of the few rivers with a perennial flow. Its headwaters are in Mexico and it flows north into the United States. The river is protected from the US/Mexico border to St. David, Arizona, a span of 40 miles.

Intimate Landscape

The next photographs are intimate landscapes — they show only a part of the landscape and focus on color, texture, patterns.

San Pedro Riparian Area

Log Dam on San Pedro © 2014 Bo Mackison

San Pedro Riparian Area

Aquatic Plant on San Pedro River Bend © 2014 Bo Mackison

 Macro-Photography in a Landscape

The close-up of the soaptree yucca dominates the photograph, but the background of desertscrub provides context.

San Pedro Riparian Area

Soaptree Yucca © 2014 Bo Mackison

The San Pedro River flows through the Chihuahuan and Sonora Deserts. Away from the water, the landscape is dominated by Chihuahuan desertscrub — soaptree yucca, creosote and agave are common. Mesquite and sacaton grasses grow in the bottomland.

Portrait in an Intimate Landscape

The portrait of waterfowl in this intimate landscape adds another dimension of place.

San Pedro Riparian Area

Waterfowl in Lake © 2014 Bo Mackison

The riparian corridor and its abutting lakes are home to 250 migrating birds, and over 100 breeding birds. Half the known breeding birds in North America have been spotted in this riparian region.

Macro-Photography and Detail Photographs

These photos capture the personality of the place, and often focus on wabi-sabi characteristics – textures and details.

San Pedro Riparian Area

Shindagger Agave © 2014 Bo Mackison


San Pedro Riparian Area

Branches in San Pedro River © 2014 Bo Mackison


San Pedro Riparian Area

San Pedro River Cottonwood © 2014 Bo Mackison

An added note: This area is also home to a significant archeological site – home of the Paleoindians or the Clovis Culture, the earliest known inhabitants of North America. They lived in this area and hunted mammoths in the last Ice Age, over 11,000 years ago.


About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Fascinating and intrigquing presentation. Your presentation provided a more in depth feel for the area than simply a few landscapes.

  2. I love the different ways you’re expressing the place here. And totally fascinated by the notion of intimate landscape photography!

  3. These are stunning images, Bo. I love the way you represented so many different facets of the place using different photographic representations. Beautiful.

  4. I bow in your general direction. Image 2 and 3 of the San Pedro River make my mouth water. Quite simply inspiring and incredibly beautiful. Thank you.

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