Nogales has been a crossroads community for a thousand years, first as Native Americans, then Spaniards, travelled along a migratory path and trade route. Items from distant cultures were traded on the route—shell and stone as well as perishable goods such as food and live creatures—coming from places of abundance like the Gulf of California and the Pacific Coast.
When the Spanish Conquistadors advanced north in search of precious metals and gems in 1540, they called the route El Camino Real (The King’s Highway). Later, in 1694, Father Eusebio Francisco Kino arrived and established a series of missions in the valley to protect against Apache raids. These missions still can be seen across the valley’s landscape. Near Nogales is the Mission San José de Tumacácori complex, a National Historical Park.
Farther south, the valley comes to its narrowest point at Nogales. This is the place where travelers today move through the river valley. Walnut trees once grew abundantly in this 4,000-foot mountain pass between the city of Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico. From this, the twin cities derive their name from the Spanish word for “walnuts.”
The town center sprang up in the late 1800s and early 1900s along what is now Grand and Morley Avenues in downtown Nogales. Here, there is unique shopping as well as historical and cultural adventures. Two pedestrian-friendly international border crossings located in downtown lead to more treasures in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. The Morley Avenue Port of Entry is the only exclusive pedestrian crossing on the U.S.-Mexico border.