Historic: Wild West

 

Wild West

For many, the southern Arizona town of Tombstone embodies Arizona’s frontier days. That would be true.  Tombstone was once bigger than San Francisco.  In the 1880s it had quite a reputation as a boomtown of the West.  But Tombstone wasn’t alone in its notoriety.  Around the same time as Tombstone’s heyday, other towns in Arizona were equally lively.  Just 24 miles from Tombstone is Bisbee, my home town.

Just as gold and silver had motivated the Spaniards to search for mineral wealth in southern Arizona, it seemed that everyone was a prospector after the discovery of gold in California.  The Mule Mountains where Bisbee is located first gave a hint of a wealth to a cavalry scout.  Just as other boomtowns were doing, Bisbee attracted prospectors and investors from the 1880s on and  grew and prospered. At the turn of the century Bisbee housed 20,000 inhabitants and Brewery Gulch hosted  50 saloons, gambling establishments and brothels. It even had its own Stock Market Exchange.  Its reputation as the wildest city between St. Louis and San Francisco was well-earned.

Bisbee was built along two canyons. The main canyon came to be called Tombstone Canyon, and the other was Brewery Gulch.

Brewery Gulch 2

Brewery Gulch

 

The original mineral exploration in Bisbee was for silver and gold.  But as the demand for copper grew, Bisbee’s rich copper ore built large mining corporations and Bisbee was one of the biggest cities in Arizona.  The copper ore was accessed deep underground. Immense bodies of high grade ore made Bisbee mines some of the richest in the world.

Headframe of the Campbell Shaft.

Headframe of the Campbell Shaft.

Sacramento Pit

Open pit mining became feasible during WWI. In 1917 tons of explosives were used to blast the top of Sacramento Hill in Bisbee and terracing began to get to the copper ore.

Lavender Pit

By the mid-1950s Sacramento Hill was a hole in the ground, and the pit was expanded to become the Lavender Pit. This necessitated the removal of roads, homes and businesses that lay in the path of the proposed open pit copper mine.

By 1915, times had changed.  Families lived in Bisbee, and the brothels and gambling had been shut down.  Prohibition had been declared in Arizona and the bars in Brewery Gulch disappeared.  Bisbee had a railroad, street cars, churches, schools and celebrations.  There were hard rock drilling contests between  miners from all over the West. Every fourth of July there were coaster races down Tombstone Canyon, parades and fireworks.

Coaster Race

The mines closed in the 1970s and Bisbee avoided becoming a ghost town because its wonderful climate made it attractive to retirees and artists. A visit to Arizona should include a trip to Bisbee.  Much of the Main Street and surrounding homes on steep hillsides have been well-preserved and you have choices of great places to stay.  The Copper Queen Hotel pictured in the Cuprite photo above, other historic inns and bed and breakfasts, even an old jail!  The Queen Mine tour is not to be missed.  The mine opened in 1877 and will give you a tiny taste of what made the Bisbee miners such well-thought of workers:

Bisbee's Iron Man statue has been painted copper.

Bisbee’s Iron Man statue has been painted copper.

The plaque at the foot of the Copper Miners Statue at the top of this page.

The dedication for the Copper Miners Statue.

 

 

 

 

Historic: Spanish and Mexican Periods

San Xavier Mission is a National Historic Landmark in Tucson.

San Xavier del Bac is a National Historic Landmark in Tucson.

The Spanish Period 1528-1821

The Mexican Period 1821-1848

Nearly two centuries after the decline of the large Archaic cities, when the first Europeans arrived, most of the natives were living in simple shelters in fertile river valleys, dependent on hunting, gathering, and small-scale farming for subsistence. (More at link.) Spanish explorer, Cabeza de Vaca, and a dwindling number of would-be settlers roamed the desert of the southwest from 1528-1536. Cabeza de Vaca became one of the first Europeans to encounter the indigenous peoples of North America.  He found those nomadic groups who spoke of the magnificent cities built to the north of Mexico. Upon his return to Spain, his writings stirred interest in further explorations of the land he had travelled because an old Portuguese legend spoke of lost cities of gold. The expeditions of Fray Marcos de Niza, and Coronado followed, all in pursuit of the riches they imagined from the tales told by the indigenous for whom the pueblos of the Zuni seemed marvelously rich.

The Arizona Indians they encountered belonged to three linguistic families: Uto-Aztecan (Hopi, Paiute, Chemehuevi, Pima-Papago), Yuman (Yuma, Mohave, Cocopa, Maricopa, Yavapai, Walapai, Havasupai), and Athapaskan (Navaho-Apache). The Hopi were the oldest group, their roots reaching back to the Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi); the youngest were the Navaho-Apache, migrants from the Plains, who were not considered separate tribes until the early 18th century.

The first Europeans to live in Arizona were Franciscans, who in 1629 established a mission to the Hopi at the village of Awatovi in northeastern Arizona.  This did not end well for the Franciscans and it wasn’t until 1692 that San Xavier Mission was founded by Father Eusebio Kino in southern Arizona. The Spanish quest for riches continued and in 1736  silver was reportedly found near a Pima Indian village southwest of present-day Nogales.  This brought more settlers and Spanish prospectors north out of Mexico.  The Pima people were uneasy with the Spanish incursion and as a result, Spain created a military outpost at Tubac. The garrison was moved to the new fort at Tucson in 1776.

As missions, ranching and mining prospered, Spanish troops campaigned against the Apache in southern Arizona and eventually worked out a peace.  The attention of the Spaniards turned to the Revolution and in 1821 Mexico gained independence.  Most of modern-day Arizona was part of Mexico at that time.  The 1835 Texas war against Mexico weakened its hold over the land in the southwest.  The US Army of the West fought the Mexican War and the US took control over New Mexico (including Arizona) and California.  With the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the war ended and the US gained title to Texas, California and New Mexico.

Historic, even pre-historic!

Southeastern Arizona Riparian area

Prehistoric times:

 

People have inhabited Arizona for a very long time, more than 12,000 years. The San Pedro River runs northward from Mexico through southeastern Arizona. The upper San Pedro Valley  contains the highest concentration of preserved Clovis sites in North America. Studies of the Murray Springs site uncovered many distinctive stone Clovis spear points. Because  they found these Clovis points associated with the bones and teeth of now extinct mammoths, bison, camels and horses, scientists conclude that these Paleo-indians remained in the San Pedro Valley to pursue these large game animals.  The climate was much different at that time, being much cooler and wetter.  The climate became warmer and drier and by 6000 BC the megafauna had died off. The people had to change their way of life to survive.

The people living in Arizona after the Paleo-indians have been called the Archaic people.  They were hunter-gatherers who moved over the land as the seasons changed.  Because of the variety of stone projectile points found, it’s apparent that different groups ranged over a wide area. They also must have had contact with people living in present day Mexico. Trade items found by archeologists include shell from the Gulf of California, turquoise from southern Arizona, parrots and copper bells.   Eventually they learned to farm and settled into stable communities.  Several general groups of people emerged.  Those that lived in the south have been called the Hohokam.  They constructed irrigation canals along the rivers in the area that is now Phoenix.  The Mogollon people lived in eastern Arizona, the Patayan lived along the Colorado River and western desert areas and the ancestral Puebloan peoples lived on the Colorado Plateau in northern Arizona. Pottery sherds we find today reveal differences in cultural style and the remains of their homes vary widely according to the area they inhabited and the climate there.

Primitive housing

WupatkiThe Sinagua people created Wupatki in northern Arizona after the eruption of Sunset Crater in 1064 AD.  The cinders from the eruption made the ground more arable, and they were able to live in one place in a puebloan culture.  The Tsegi phase sites at Betatakin and Keet Seel were built by the Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) people in the natural alcoves in the sandstone canyons of northern Arizona.  These sites are maintained by the National Park Service. The ancient people who inhabited Arizona led the way for the modern native americans you will find there.  More in next post.  Historic Arizona

Fire-prone

In 1910 a devastating wildfire tore through Idaho and Montana. In just two days’ time, the Big Blowup consumed almost three million acres of forested hillsides. Drought and high winds created the perfect conditions for a firestorm. The National Forest Service had recently been created, but fighting the fire required additional help from the US Army and the local miners. At last, a cold front brought a rain storm that put the fire out. Eight-nine lives were lost and the horrifying stories of the survivors motivated the country to create a fire suppression policy.

For most of the last century, the Forest Service put out almost every fire.  The result, unfortunately, has been severely increased forest density. The first settlers in northern Arizona described the forest as possible to ride a horse through at a full gallop.

Thick forest

Today riding at a gallop through the woods around Flagstaff would not be advisable. According to turn of the century reports from the early 1900’s, northern Arizona was mixed conifer forest with grassy undergrowth and large, open areas.  Because of the distance between the large old growth trees, when a wildfire occurred, it burned along the ground, not in the crown of the tree as today.  This allowed the trees to survive a fire, whereas today, everything is killed.

Burned hillside

You can see a burned off area at the top of this hill, with standing snags. The area below the hill was saved by fire-fighting efforts.

Arizona has a dry climate.  Arizona has experienced long drought periods in the past. When the Ponderosa Pines are distressed by lack of moisture, they are prone to the Pine Bark Beetle.  In 2010, 9.2 million acres (Out of 749 million acres of forest land in the United States) of tree mortality was caused by insects and disease. 74 % of that damage was done by the Bark Beetle. Once these stands of trees die, they are tinder waiting for the next lightning strike, careless camper, or tossed cigarette.

The problem is compounded by the number of homes built in the interface area between the forest and the urban areas.  Firefighters are put at risk to save homes from the fast-moving fires.  Much has been learned about caring for our wild lands, and one of the projects now underway is 4FRI. This is the Four Forests Restoration Initiative, working to restore the structure, pattern and composition of fire-adapted ecosystems, which will provide for fuels reduction, forest health, and wildlife and plant diversity. 4FRI aims to implement comprehensive restoration over the next twenty years, including thinning of predominantly small trees across one million acres, and safe controlled burning and natural fire management on much of the landscape.

Downed Ponderosas

Bark Beetle-downed trees

Dry slash pile

Slash piles ready for burning

Fire from car

A controlled burn

Hopefully 4FRI is a solution for implementing landscape-scale forest restoration. It is a problem that will take twenty years or more to solve, with new fires happening each year.  Home owners in the urban interface areas attempt to clear areas around their homes, and create emergency plans for escape should a fire start.

Eroded

Arizona is a geological laboratory because the natural forces in play are so visible. Erosion is a general term for the weathering of rocks and the transportation of them.  The forces of erosion are gravity, ice, water and wind.

The San Francisco Mountain in Flagstaff is a strato-volcano in the midst of a volcanic field of over 600 smaller volcanos. This largest volcano is now 12, 633 feet in elevation, but it is estimated it reached 16,000 feet before a sideways eruption or glacial erosion, or both, collapsed or carved out the northeastern side of the mountain.

Imagine lines connecting the two outer slopes of the San Francisco Peaks.  That much has eroded away.

Imagine lines connecting the two outer slopes of the San Francisco Peaks. That much has eroded away.

You can see green lichen growing on this large basalt boulder at the base of Mount Elden in Flagstaff.  Weathering and erosion from the lichen, rain, snow, and freezing winter temperatures have  and cracked the boulder in half.

Basalt boulder from the Mt. Elden lava dome.

Basalt boulder from the Mt. Elden lava dome.

In the mesa shown below, you can see how the soft sedimentary layers at the top have been weathered away by wind and water and gravity has piled it around the bottom.

Eroded mesa in northern Arizona.

Eroded mesa in northern Arizona.

Wind is a powerful force in erosion as you can see in the photo of Tsegi Canyon below where it hollows out the sedimentary rock.

To the right in this picture of Tsegi Canyon you can see the wind weathering scooping out the soft rock.

To the right in this picture of Tsegi Canyon you can see the wind weathering scooping out the soft rock.

Water helps to carry away the debris weathered from the higher elevations and the grit and sand in the water help to erode more rocks as it passes.

Downpours of rain quickly run off the land, carrying the weathered particles of rock along.

Downpours of rain quickly run off the land, carrying the weathered particles of rock along. Note the truck crossing the stream.

The classic Arizona erosion example is the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River.

GC erosion best

Dry

Because Arizona is arid by nature, we are tempted to think it has no water.  Since ancient times. residents of this desert land have been ingenious in harnessing the water resources needed for life.  As it was for the ancients, our main renewable resource for water is surface water in streams.

Petroglyph on Shaw Butte in north Phoenix

Petroglyph on Shaw Butte in north Phoenix

 

For almost 1500 years the Hohokam people inhabited central Arizona, farming near the Gila and Salt Rivers.  In about 600,  the Hohokam began to dig canals up to twelve feet deep to bring water to their 110,000 acres of fields.

Petroglyphs of the sun during the seasons of the year, Shaw Butte

Petroglyphs of the sun during the seasons of the year

 

Their amazing irrigation system made it possible to support a population of about 80,000 people.  We do not know what finally disrupted their civilization in about 1450, but they left petroglyphs on hilltops throughout the region.  Their descendants live on as the Tohono O’odham Nation.

In the 1870s, settlers to the central valley followed the lines of the ancient canals and brought water from the same Salt River to their own fields.  Those canals are no longer in use, but newer canals criss-cross the valley bringing water from the river and from new projects. Arizona has developed one of the most sophisticated water management programs in the world. (The Arizona Experience)

Beginning in the early 1900s, Arizona began building a series of dams along the streams and creeks of the state. Lakes behind these dams provide recreational use as well as water supplies for drinking water, irrigation and industry.

Roosevelt Dam on the Salt River was built in 1912.

Roosevelt Dam on the Salt River was built in 1912.

 

As it was for the ancient people, the surface water today is not dependable season to season or year to year.  Additional resources currently are Ground Water, Colorado River Water, and Effluent.  Water from the Colorado River is brought into the middle of the state with the Central Arizona Project, CAP, and used to fill the lakes and recharge the groundwater. Bartlett Lake lengthWith careful management, Arizona is not so dry after all.

Covered with Cacti

Saguaro, Carnegiea Gigantica

Saguaro, Carnegiea Gigantica

 

Arizona has more cacti than any other state!  Of course, there is more to Arizona flora than cacti.  However, what a wonderful distinction to have.  The iconic Saguaro is native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, the Mexican state of Sonora, and a small area of California. The Saguaro blossom is the State Wildflower of Arizona.

Our arid climate has led to wonderful adaptive plants that flourish here. Cacti quickly store the scant rainfall in their thick stems for the drought i
YFperiods.  Most cacti have fleshy stems that expand and shrink according to the water stored inside.  The stems are green, so cacti photosynthesize even though their leaves have adapted to become spines.  The spines protect the waxy flesh from predators such as birds, ground squirrels and rabbits. Desert birds nevertheless build their nests in cacti such as the Cholla and the Saguaro.

Here is a selection of  additional cacti that you may encounter on an Arizona trip.

Teddy Bear Cholla, Cylindropuntia bigelovii.

Teddy Bear Cholla, Cylindropuntia bigelovii.

Barrel Cactus, Ferocactus

Barrel Cactus, Ferocactus

Prickly Pear,  Opuntia engelmannii

Prickly Pear, Opuntia engelmannii

Mammillaria Grahamii

Mammillaria Grahamii

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hedgehog Cactus, Echinocereus engelmannii

Hedgehog Cactus, Echinocereus engelmannii

Barrel Cactus, Ferocactus

Barrel Cactus, Ferocactus

Buckhorn Cholla, Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa

Buckhorn Cholla, Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa

Prickly Pear, Opuntia Engelmanii

Prickly Pear, Opuntia Engelmanii

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Botanical gardens are worth a visit if you want to see Arizona’s many cacti species.  Here are some of my personal favorites: In the Phoenix area: Desert Botanical Garden, Boyce Thompson Arboretum In the Tucson area: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum,

Brown

I have heard it asked, “Why is Arizona so brown?” There is brown here. However, if you look, you will find a full palette of color.

There is also the blue of lakes, like Lake Pleasant near Phoenix.

There is also the blue of lakes, like Lake Pleasant near Phoenix.

Even in the driest parts of the desert, the cacti conspire to add amazing color.

Even in the driest parts of the desert, the cacti conspire to add amazing color.

Purple Phacelia in North Mountain Preserve, Phoenix.

Purple Phacelia in North Mountain Preserve, Phoenix.

Desert Globe Mallow in bloom.

Desert Globe Mallow in bloom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oak Creek Canyon

Oak Creek Canyon

Oak Creek Canyon Redrock near Sedona.

Oak Creek Canyon Redrock near Sedona.

Lush forest on Mt. Lemmon near Tucson.

Lush forest on Mt. Lemmon near Tucson.

Young poppy in the desert

Young poppy in the desert

Ponderosa forest on the Colorado Plateau of northern Arizona

Ponderosa forest on the Colorado Plateau of northern Arizona

Arid

The most common adjective people seem to associate with Arizona is “dry.” Many factors combine to create an ecosystem that many label as desert.  The amount of  annual precipitation alone, 10 inches or less, is not the whole story.  Arizona is also sunny, sometimes windy and experiences temperature extremes.  During a twenty-four hour period, a range of 40 degrees is not unusual. These extremes increase
the amount of water that escapes back into the air. The composition of the soil also affects how much water is available.  Yet, Arizona is not devoid of plant and animal life.  Our deserts and high mountain ranges support abundant flora and fauna that is well-adapted to this arid home. Plants and animals here are expert conservationists to make the most of what moisture is available.

Much of the Sonoran Desert depends on seasonal rainfall and responds quickly to a brief storm.

Much of the Sonoran Desert depends on seasonal rainfall and responds quickly to a brief storm.

Reflections in Wet Beaver Creek, northern Arizona

Wet Beaver Creek is an oasis in the Sonoran desert in northern Arizona. It is a perennial stream that is a crucial source of water for elk, bear, deer, mountain lion, small animals and birds.

Willcox Playa

The Willcox Playa is an ancient lake bed in southern Arizona that receives only occasional rain but is an important stopover for migratory birds.