Located a little over an hour southwest of Tucson in the Altar Valley, Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge protects the largest tract of ungrazed Sonoran semi-desert grassland in the United States. The grassland comprises about 110,000 acres (44,515 hectares) of the 117,464-acre (47,536-hectare) refuge. Other habitats are contained in two other separate units and include the wetlands of the Arivaca Cienaga and the sycamore-shaded Brown Canyon, whose volcanic cliffs are over 200,000,000 years old.
The wildlife refuge was established in 1985 mainly to provide habitat for the critically endangered masked bobwhite, a distinctive subspecies of the northern bobwhite, a type of quail. The masked bobwhite had been extirpated from the United States, and only a small population existed just across the border in Mexico. A reintroduction program operated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service is attempting to establish a breeding population of the quail within the United States. The program is also conducted in cooperation with a similar program in Mexico.
In order to maintain the grassland habitat, the wildlife service conducts periodic controlled burns to inhibit the growth of mesquite bushes and other non-native plants. Prior to the arrival of humans, fire was an important factor in the health and maintenance of the grasslands. Without fire, the grasslands would be overtaken by other types of plants and the habitat would disappear.
Visitors are free to drive the dirt roads of the refuge to view wildlife (I saw several impressive pronghorn antelope but failed to find any of the quail, as they are extremely rare and difficult to find). Other available activities include guided hikes, educational programs and workshops, and group stays.
The grasslands of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge are bordered by the Baboquivari Mountains just to the west. The 7,730-foot (2,356-meter) Baboquivari Peak (pictured here) dominates the mountain range and is one of the most distinctive peaks in southeastern Arizona, visible from miles away.
The small village of Tubac was first settled about 250 years ago when the Spanish established a garrison along the Santa Cruz River to protect the area from the Apaches. It was the first European settlement in what is now Arizona. During its tumultuous history, the town was attacked by the Apaches, abandoned, re-established as a mining town, abandoned again, and finally resettled again.
In the 1940s, Tubac became an artists' colony when the Dale Nichol's Artist School opened. Many of the artists and students who attended the school stayed, and opened studios and galleries. Nowadays, Tubac has a population of 250 and contains dozens of chic art galleries, shops, and restaurants.
Tubac comes from a Tohono O'odham word meaning "black pool of water" or "low area" referring to its site along the Santa Cruz River.
Tombstone is the greatest Old West town in the world!! It is also Arizona’s second biggest tourist attraction, second only to the Grand Canyon. Tombstone has no franchises or any businesses other than those supporting the Old West tourism. This is the greatest step back into the American West one can find on the planet.
There are gunfight shows galore, an underground silver mine tour, (silver is what created the town…gunfights are what has kept in on the map) stagecoach rides, western saloons, horse rentals and history, history, history! They make it a lot of fun too! This town is absolutely incredible and although off the beaten path…well worth making a day of when in Arizona.
Obviously, the most famous thing in Arizona is the Grand Canyon National Park.
However, don't forget about the lesser known places, some of which are covered in state and local parks.
For example, the route between the south rim of the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas goes through Kingman. Just outside of Kingman, you will find an impressive pile of very jagged rocks, which looks very intriguing for visitors. It so happens this is Hualapai Mountain County Park.
So, just because something isn't on the National Parks list, doesn't mean that it isn't something that could be worth visiting.
Don't get so caught up in visiting the big name attractions that you miss out on the smaller attractions along your planned route (whatever that route may be).
I am standing in Arizona taking a picture of Bob and our daughter standing in New Mexico. This is the only place where four states meet at one point. The VT location for Four Corners is Colorado. The fourth state that has a corner there is Utah.
At the time we went in 1966, there really wasn't much here Pictures taken more recently show a whole bunch of stores around this area. The monument that marks the meeting place of the four states can be accessed by a clearly marked short spur road from US160.
We didn’t actually visit the Cameron Trading Post, which is considered a great place to shop for Native American crafts such as jewellery in silver and turquoise, woven rugs, pottery, baskets and paintings. Maybe we should have! But we did stop nearby, as the photos show. We found the scene very photogenic: the rather desolate empty landscape, the scruffy shack selling crafts (almost certainly of a lesser quality than at the Trading Post, but as we weren’t shopping that didn’t matter) and the big, big skies. It could be any one of quite a few places in this desert state; it just happened to be here. So if you have a camera and an eye for the less obvious vista, take the time to stop in the places less travelled and take in the scene.
Near the Vermillion Cliffs in north eastern Arizona is the small settlement known as Cliff Dwellers. The name fascinated us when we saw it on our map so we decided to stop to investigate. The settlement consists of a few adobe buildings nestled amongst crumbling rocks and oddly shaped boulders. Some, as the name suggests, are actually built into the Cliffside – spot the doorway under the rock in my main photo. There is a gas station and café, but the main attractions for us were the photogenic rocks and the group of friendly children (see photo 2) who gathered to watch our arrival and show us the pebbles they had collected (none of them very interesting, it has to be said!)
In writing this tip now, many years after my visit, I’ve finally got round to doing a bit of research about these odd structures and found out that they are the remains of a lodge that stood here about 80 years ago. The article I unearthed says that they are no longer inhabited, although it seemed to us when we were there that these families were living in them, however unofficially. Anyway, here’s an extract:
“This is a story about some innovative White settlers - including a Ziegfeld Follies dancer - on the Arizona Strip north of the Grand Canyon who had their own ideas about adjusting to a harsh and barren land. They built a small town of wooden structures with shingle roofs that still cling to gigantic boulders in a moonlike setting at the foot of the Vermilion Cliffs near U.S. 89A...
The story of Cliff Dwellers begins during the Great Depression, when one Blanche Russell gave up a highly successful dancing career back East to tend to her husband, Bill, who was suffering from tuberculosis. The couple packed up and moved to the Southwest, crossing the recently completed Navajo Bridge across the Colorado River south of Lees Ferry.
The Russells only made it a few more miles, however, before their car broke down near the big rocks. Blanche got it in her head that it wouldn't be a half-bad place to live and the couple threw up a lean-to of tarpaper and boards against the largest rock. Then, she started serving food to passers-by in return for labour as the house got larger.
Pretty soon, the couple had a full-scale restaurant on their hands and added a hand gasoline pump for some of the earliest motorists to the Canyon's North Rim. They also catered to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in wagons who were taking the Mormons' nearby Honeymoon Trail to have their marriages sanctified at the temple in St. George, Utah.”
Read more at: http://www.azcentral.com/travel/arizona/features/articles/archive/0928cliffdwellers.html?&wired
In the background of this photo you can see how the Vermillion Cliffs rise above the flat plains in the north east corner of Arizona. These are considered to form one of the most spectacular and extensive cliff faces in the US. Their colourfulness is caused by the variegated rocks of the “Chinle Formation” which forms the lower strata. The escarpment runs for over 30 miles and reaches heights of 2,000 feet. It is a National Monument, but one without facilities or visitor attractions. However the cliffs certainly merit a stop or two to take photos, and if you want to explore further there are tracks and hiking trails that will take you to the edge of the cliffs for views over the surrounding plateau, although we didn’t take advantage of these on this trip. There is also the possibility of wilderness back-packing – see the website below for more information.
With a name like Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument you would think the National Park system had grandiose plans for this sublime piece of Utah real estate when it was designated a protected area in 1996, but the young park was relegated to the Bureau of Land Management and hence lost a bit of the gloss associated with its more famous National Park cousins in the state. No matter, it appears enough people are finding out about it just the same and perhaps the reasoning behind the managerial choice was to keep it less developed and hence more wild than a bona fide National Park. With little known but sure fire attractions like The Wave and Buckskin Gulch, it might be for the best to keep roads to them unpaved and relegated more for adventure seekers. Even this growing group is having to be kept at bay with permit requirements to protect this fragile ecosystem What they seek is a communion with nature that the National Park system has used as its calling card for a century but has lost sight of in its quest for convenience. Many will complain that such national treasures should be more accessible to the masses who in tax dollars fund them but this is one grand experiment that seems to be proving that less can indeed be more.
With its proximity to both Phoenix and Flagstaff, Montezuma's Castle provides a quick glimpse into Native American cliff dwelling life for those that may not get further afield. While not as elaborate as Mesa Verde in Colorado, its level of preservation is equitable and if you are driving to the Grand Canyon from Phoenix, it is right on your way. Couple that with it being part of the America the Beautiful pass and hence free to enter if you are in possession of one to go to the Grand Canyon. What you will be rewarded with, after such minimal effort, is an ancient Native American equivalent to a high rise built right into the side of a cliff.
The impressive structure is five stories high with twenty individual rooms that housed Sinagua Indians some 600 years ago. Built into the natural limestone cliffs common to the area, early settles misnamed it after Montezuma whom they assumed had been instrumental in its inception though later investigation revealed it was abandoned perhaps 100 years before he was born! With an elaborate Visitor Center and a completely wheelchair-accessible path to the ruin, it is an unsurprisingly popular stop.
Since we had already planned visits to Mesa Verde and Canyon de Chelly, we kind of found this last minute and to be honest only because it was part of the National Parks Pass. We were glad we stopped but were a bit surprised at just how popular it was. It is $5 per person to go and not sure I would go out of my way for a visit but if you are not going to any of the other cliff dwelling parks and have an interest, it's well worth the effort. If you are traveling with the America the Beautiful Pass and have even an hour to spend, it's a no brainer: Go!
Directions: Follow I-17 to exit 289 (90 minutes north of Phoenix, 45 minutes south of Flagstaff).
Drive east (through two traffic circles) for approximately 1/2 mile to the blinking red light. Turn left on Montezuma Castle Road.
Lost Dutchman State park is located about 40 minutes outside of Phoenix near the town of Apache Junction. This was our first stop in a week-long camping adventure across the state. The campground was breathtaking... spectacular views of the desert landscape ESPECIALLY at sunset!
Hike the superstition mountain trail (we didn't quite make it to the flatiron... big sis is kinda afraid of heights...), but the view from siphon draw is worth it.
Take a drive into Tonto National Forest along the Apache Trail... the scenery is UNBELIEVABLE! If you want to park at any of the recreation areas, make sure you buy a $5 parking pass in Apache Junction or you can get one at Tortilla Flats along the Trail.
This probably wouldn't normally be considered off the beaten path seeing as how it is a big tourist attraction. However, some people may not realize how far off the highway the Grand Canyon is. The road is narrow and only one lane in each direction so you can't go too fast and it is quite a ways from the turnoff from the highway to the entrance to the park (a little over an hour from the 40, longer if you go from Flagstaff) with absolutely NOTHING out there so you'd better make sure you have enough gas and water to make it that much further.
It is definitely worth the effort to get there though. It's not a touristy tourist attraction, if you know what I mean. There can be a lot of people (avoid the crowds by getting up early, you're more likely to see more animals that time of day as well) and there is a gift shop but the overwhelming beauty of the place, including the animals and flowers around the rim, more than make up for the large number of visitors.
Navajo National Monument is located 50 miles northeast of Tuba City or 20 miles southwest of Kayenta, Arizona. Accessible via US 160, and then 9 miles on AR 564. The visitor center is open from 8:00am to 7:00pm, seven days a week.
Navajo National Monument
HC 71 Box 3
Tonalea, AZ 86044
The mission was started in 1700 and completed about 85 later. Organally it was built as part on the Spanish chain of missions leading out of today's Mexico into California to convert the Indian population to Cjriostanity.
Today it is still a fully functional Catholic church serving the Pima Indian reservation about 9 miles South of Tuscan, Arizona.
1950 West San Xavier Road. Tucson, AZ 85746
Ever imagined what a relatively small meteor would do if it made impact with the Earth's surface? This is the place to study just that.
Off of I-40 at exit 233 about 30 minutes outside Flagstaff, there is a long winding road that will take you to what appears to be small hills. However, these hills are the outer rims of an impression made by a fierce impact of a meteor.
There is a museum, guided tours of the rim and an observation deck. It is handicapped friendly, and even for those of you (like me) who have a fear of heights, a deck that is 'safe' to view the crater without feeling you are going to fall. Don't forget to watch the film, and if you do, it is available for purchase in the gift shop. Like most tourist spots, the gift shop has less to do with the crater and more to do with cheesy overpriced gifts. But they have some great crater mementos to pick up.
They also have a Subway there to get a quick bite to eat. To really enjoy everything this place has to offer, expect to set aside at least 90 minutes to 2 hours.
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