Tumacacori National Historical Park Travel Guide

  • Homemade Tortillas Anyone?
    Homemade Tortillas Anyone?
    by Basaic
  • The Church at Tumacacori
    The Church at Tumacacori
    by Basaic
  • San Xavier del Bac Mission
    San Xavier del Bac Mission
    by Basaic

Tumacacori National Historical Park Things to Do

  • Entrance to Park

    Your first stop at Tumacacori National Historic Park will be the Visitor's Center. The Visitor's Center has a nice gift shop and a few displays. Here you will pay the $3 per person entrance fee (free for children 16 and under) which is good for 7 days. Special passes like the annual pass, handicapped pass and senior pass are honored here. The park...

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  • The Trailhead

    The interpretive trail through the park is level, short and east to traverse. It starts with a view of the general area. On the left you can see some mounds. Beneath these mounds are the remains of the O'odham houses. About 30 miles away, you can see the Santa Rita Mountains where some of the building materials came from. The trail is well marked...

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  • Compuerta

    The compuerta was used to maximize the use of one of the most precious commodities for the mission. Water. It held water used for washing, cooking, and drinking and also directed the water to irrigate the crops.

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  • O'odham House

    This is an O'odham House or a Muuro-ki. It was constructed in modern times but was made by O'odham craftsmen using the original designs and materials. It is believed to very closely resemble the houses used in the 1600 and 1700s. In addition to the main house there is a Juato or ramada style porch, and a Comal used as a cooking area.

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  • The Covento

    Here is the Covento or Priest's Quarters. It was also used as a residence and even a schoolhouse after the mission was abandoned.

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  • The Jesuit Church

    The church you see here today, was not the first church built on the site. Father Kino celebrated mass under a ramada or a brush shelter. The Jesuits built the first church here in the spring of 1753. It was abandoned when the Jesuits were expelled in 1767. The church you see today was built in 1822. In the photo, you can see all that remains of...

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  • Granary

    It was in this granary that foodstuffs were stored to feed the people living in and around the mission. Maximum use was made of the scant resources to ensure an adequate supply of food year round.

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  • See the Church Cemetery

    As you exit the church you see the Cemetery. One of the most prominent features here is the 16 foot diameter Mortuary Chapel. The roof of the chapel, probably planned to be a dome, was never completed. About 593 people were buried here between 1755 and 1825. Families that moved to the area around 1900 acknowledged this as still holy ground and used...

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  • Sanctuary

    As you walk up the steps from the nave you see the sanctuary. Originally this was the most ornate and colorful part of the church. It was from here the priest celebrated the mass.

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  • The Baptistry

    On the right after you enter the church is the BaptistryThis is where the sacred ceremony of baptism was performed. There is a button on the wall you can push to hear the story of the room. At the rear left of the Baptistry is a staircase that leads to the tower and the choir loft. This area is not accesible to the public.

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  • Nave of the Church

    As you look toward the altar, you see the nave of the church. This is where the people gathered for the worship service. There were no pews. You either stood or knelt. There are four side altars where people lit candles and said prayers to individual saints.

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  • See the Church

    As you first exit the museum you will also see the front of the church itself. Over $20,000,000 US has been spent since the park first opened maintaining the church and the rest of the park.

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  • Visit the Museum

    There is a nice museum at the Tumacacori National Historic Park. It includes information about the O'odham Tribe and other tribes from the area; the Spanish Missionaries; the weapons they used to quell any uprisings; a map of the missions established in the area; and an exhibit about the construction of the church. There are also displays about the...

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  • The Garden at Tumacacori

    Although Tumacacori was the first mission established in what is now called Arizona, Father Kino established the Guevavi Mission the next day and made it the headquarters. The first garden and church were built there. Although this is neither the first garden, nor the original garden for Tumacacori, it has been designed and constructed to be as...

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  • Oak Tree Dedication

    As you drive into the parking area for the Tumacacori National Historic Park you will see two signs by the building. One gives you a brief history of Tumacacori and the other is for the future dedication of an Emory Oak on 8 March 2008 to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the establishment of the park and to celebrate 100 years of statehood for...

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  • Muuro-Ki: There's No Place Like Home

    Across the yard from the convent we saw a Murro-Ki, a modern construction of a traditional O'odham Indian dwelling, made of mesquite timbers, ocotillo cactus, and mud. It was built in 1997 according to ancient custom by O'odham workers using traditional hand tools. This type of structure was once used for O'odham housing as part of the mission...

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  • The Garden

    My favorite spot at Tumacacori was the garden. It is a carefully engineered replica of Spanish mission gardens everywhere. Gardens as this one were an important component of the mission courtyard, providing a place for quiet reflection around a simple fountain. Other than the section of native plants of the Sonoran Desert, the vegetation growing...

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  • El Convento

    The ruin which once constituted the convento, or priests' quarters, has seen much usage, both during the mission era and afterwards. After abandonment, it was used as a residence by various people and was even used as a schoolhouse during the administration of the first resident superintendent at Tumacacori National Monument, later redesignated as...

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  • The Lime Kiln

    Lime plaster was used at Tumacacori to protect the adobe from moisture. Tons of raw material (limestone boulders) had to be brought to the mission for processing so that a coat of plaster, often more than two inches thick, could be applied to the walls. Like the timbers in the roof, limestone had to be transported some thirty miles from the Santa...

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  • The Granary

    Next to the cemetery is the granary, where foodstuffs were stored and distributed to the village people. Prior to the coming of the Spanish, the O'odham diet consisted of squash, beans, corn, small game, and wild plants. The Spanish brought sheep, goats, and cattle, adding protein to the diet. They also brought wheat which could be grown in winter,...

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  • Tumacacori Cemetary

    After passing the Mortuary Chapel we found ourselves in the Tumacacori Cemetery. There are a few early 20th century graves, but any evidence of mission-era graves was destroyed long ago by weather, treasure hunters, and cattle. Toward the end of the 19th century the cemetery was used as a corral during cattle drives and roundups. Families who moved...

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  • Mortuary Chapel

    Upon exiting the rear of the church the first thing we noticed was a circular building which once served as the Mortuary Chapel. It is about 16 feet in diameter and has a flat roof, although it is speculated that it was originally intended to be covered with a dome. This is where funeral masses were celebrated and rosaries were prayed for the dead.

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  • The Nave and Sanctuary

    Stepping inside the church you can see the remains of the once magnificent nave - the place reserved for the accommodation of the people. Here indian and Spanish settlers took their places at the "Holy Mass." There are no pews. The people stood or knelt during the services. The church is in the form of a long hall rather than a cross. Lining the...

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  • The Bell Tower

    .Although the bell tower arches appear to be in a state of ruin, they are almost in exactly the same condition as when the church was abandoned in 1848, never having been completed. Not the scallop shell motif of the statue niches. They are symbols of the pilgrims of the Middle Ages traveling to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. To prove they had...

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  • Front of the Church

    The facade of the church was rendered in bright colors to appeal to the Indians, with yellow tending toward pink. Today, under the cornice below the window, some of the original color is still visible. The half circle of the espadana, or pediment, is a careful reconstruction.The columns were painted red, the capitals yellow with black markings....

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  • The Church at Tumacacori

    Although the Tumacacori Mission was established in 1691, the first church was not built until 1751. At that time the community was moved to its present site on this side of the Santa Cruz River to be near the newly established Tubac Presidio. The present church was built by the Franciscans between 1800 and 1822.Father Liberos, a peninsular-born...

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  • The Model Room

    The model room in the visitor center shows that a mission was much more than a church. It had housing for the O'odham Indians and the priest, workshops, class rooms, a cemetery, a mortuary chapel, an irrigation system, gardens, orchards and grazing lands. In fact, a mission did not aways have a church as is evidenced by the fact that there was no...

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Tumacacori National Historical Park Shopping

  • Stephen-KarenConn's Profile Photo

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Jan 25, 2005

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    For those who wish to take home a souvenir from Tumacacori, there is a selection of items in the Visitor Center. However, for a more authentic memento for the mission, we saw a few native vendors and craftspeople who had tables set up along the walkway between the Visitor Center and the Church. Whenevery possible I enjoy patronizing the small-time entrepreneur. Not only do you help and encourage the local craftsman, but the souvenir you get will be more authentic and meaningful as well.

    Karen Inspecting the Local Wares

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Tumacacori National Historical Park Local Customs

  • Local Custom Demonstrations

    I lucked out on my last visit to Tumacacori National Historic Park. The park sometimes has demonstations of local crafts and customs like this lady who was demonstrating the traditional way to make tortillas from scratch.

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  • Fiesta Grounds: La Fiesta de Tumacacori

    In recognition of the many cultures that were historically and are presently associated with the upper Santa Cruz Valley of southern Arizona, the annual Fiesta at Tumacacori National Historical Park presents the traditional creations of these cultures the first Saturday and Sunday of December.La Fiesta de Tumacacori features some fifty food and...

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