The Santa Cruz River, flowing northward from Mexico into Arizona, is a verdant artery through the desert — one that led early Spanish explorers into a vast, unknown land. Fray Marcos de Niza pioneered this route in 1539, followed by Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino in 1691. In 1775, Juan Bautista de Anza led a caravan of settlers along the river during a 1,200-mile overland trek to establish the mission and presidio of San Francisco.
Today, the historic river is the site of Rancho Santa Cruz, a five-room bed and breakfast that sits on 113 tree-shaded acres straddling its namesake waterway. It’s nestled beneath a canopy of towering cottonwood trees 20 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border and just south of Tumacácori National Historical Park, the mission Kino founded.
When Susan and Peter Berryman discovered the property in 2016, the old adobe hacienda, which dates to the 1920s, was a run-down mess, having been abandoned for more than a decade. “There were packrats in every room,” Susan recalls, “and the tin roof was leaking in several places. The swimming pool was full of muck, frogs and turtles.” Susan, an artist, and Peter, a sculptor, bought the ranch and decided to restore it themselves with the help of their sons, Tony and Josh, and Josh’s wife, Cristina. The one-year family project stretched into two years as more problems arose, and restoring the property while maintaining its historical character posed an additional challenge.
The inn opened in March 2018, and the Berrymans must be doing it right: Many of the inn’s online reviews are of the effusive, five-star variety. “We like whole families to come and stay together,” Susan says. Josh and Cristina, who manage the inn, emphasize their strict attention to cleanliness because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each guest room is thoroughly sanitized at checkout, and mattresses are stripped and steam-cleaned before the room is quarantined for two days.
In those rooms, the décor is a blend of Western art and American Indian-patterned textiles and rugs on the polished concrete floors. Dark, hand-hewn vigas contrast with plastered ceilings. Family heirlooms make up some of the period furniture. And while there are no television sets, there is Wi-Fi.
Who needs it, though, when the nearby art colony of Tubac beckons, along with ample opportunities for birding and golfing? And, of course, those miles and miles of the Santa Cruz River.
1709 E. Frontage Road