Top 10 draws under the Rim
1. TONTO FOREST
The Tonto hugs the crest of the Mogollon Rim and wanders 90 miles south over a spectacular 2.9-million acres of pine and cactus. And just over the top of the Rim (drive east on Highway 260 until your eyes pop out of your head), the wooded Knoll Lake, Bear Canyon Lake and Woods Canyon Lake beckon thousands when Valley temperatures begin to climb.
2. WORLD'S OLDEST CONTINUOUS RODEO
All right, so there's always some controversy over the number of years this mid-August Payson mega-event has operated continuously ? some say the next one will be the 117th (the official number), some say the 116th. But no matter. This may well be the best man-made time you'll have in Rim country all year.
But there's plenty of close competition ... like the Gary Hardt Memorial Rodeo in the spring, the June Bug Blues Festival, and the Arizona State Championship Old Time Fiddler's Contest in September.
3. RIM COUNTRY MUSEUM
The two-story museum, located at 700 Green Valley Parkway, showcases local pioneers and Native Americans. It includes a gift shop brimming with T-shirts, curios and books about local history. Two T-shaped display walls have been added to the museum's downstairs exhibit hall, providing space for six additional displays ? including a pair of permanent must-sees.
The first pays homage to one of the area's most notable historic landmarks ? Roosevelt Dam ? through old photographs, artifacts, core samples and other chunks of the structure's past.
The other recalls the wild and wooly days of Rim country life during the Prohibition years ? not to mention the area's reputation for turning out a pretty fair moonshine, known as "Payson Dew."
For more information on these and the museum's rotating exhibits, call 474-3483. The museum is open from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.
4. SENIOR CENTERS
Rimaroos aged 50 and older keep the local senior centers hopping with line dancing, pinochle, pool, canasta, aerobics, wood carving, choir productions, craft classes and old-time music. Activities vary between each center, and the Payson Senior Center conducts monthly field trips to operas, festivals, shopping centers and museums.
The Payson Senior Center serves up to 65 low-cost meals a day, including Meals on Wheels to homebound seniors. The Pine Senior Center serves between 20 and 90 low-cost lunches a day. Both centers require lunch reservations 24-hours in advance. For details, call the Payson Senior Center at (520) 474-4876 or the Pine Senior Center at (520) 476-2151.
5. THE RIM ROAD
Cruise one of the most scenic routes in all of Arizona: the 42-mile Rim Road, which hugs the edge of the Mogollon Rim and climbs to a height of 8,074 feet at Baker Butte. Developed by General George Crook in 1872, the road became less traveled when the railroad came to Holbrook in 1882.
But during the 1970s, the historical value of the Rim Road ? aka Crook's Trail and Forest Road 300 ? was preserved by white Vs painted on trees and rock formations, marking the old route for young Turks. (Take State Highway 87 north to Forest Road 300, to your left.)
6. CONCERTS UNDER THE STARS MUSIC SERIES
Payson's Concert Under the Stars series, an eight-week summer concert series in Green Valley Park's amphitheater, has become one of the town's most popular events. Concert goers stretch out on blankets and lawn chairs to enjoy musical styles ranging from Reggae to Dixieland. For more information, call (520) 474-5242, ext. 7.
7. PAYSON GOLF COURSE
A practice hole ? featuring a couple of bunkers ? was built near the clubhouse last year, adding to the pleasure of teeing off at the area's most accessible 18-hole course.
Throughout the playing season, the Payson Women's Golf Association sponsors a Ladies' Day for its 18-hole group on Tuesdays and again on Thursdays for its 9-hole group. The Payson Men's Golf Association gets its tee time every Wednesday, with pick-up games on Mondays and Wednesdays. For more information, call (520) 474-2273.
8. TONTO NATURAL BRIDGE STATE PARK
Here's where you'll find the Rim country's most popular tourist attraction: the largest natural travertine bridge in the whole wide world. At 400 feet wide, it arches 183 feet above sparkling Pine Creek. Flowing springs and fern-draped grottoes line the narrow canyon upstream and, in a large grassy meadow above the bridge, a restored turn-of-the-century hotel provides a peek at history. All of this is located 13 miles northwest of Payson off Highway 87.
9. ROOSEVELT LAKE & DAM
Roosevelt Lake was created by the (Teddy) Roosevelt Dam, the first major structure built by the Bureau of Reclamation on the Salt River Project. The dam ? 280 feet high, 723 feet long ? spans the Salt River.
Once the largest man-made lake in the world, the 17,000-acre Roosevelt Lake is still the biggest of the six SRP lakes. Its game fish include large- and small-mouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish and crappie. Both a wildlife area and refuge, Roosevelt Lake is posted to permit hunting at certain times of the year. (From Payson, take the Beeline Highway south to Highway 188 east.)
If you don't feel like driving all that way to see the dam, just head on over to the Rim Country Museum in Green Valley Park to see the permanent Roosevelt Dam exhibit that opened there this year.
10. ZANE GREY MUSEUM
Although famed Western novelist Zane Grey crafted Old West adventure stories set throughout the West, his most powerful imagery was set on and near the Mogollon Rim. That focus on this stretch of Arizona carried over into the numerous movies based on his novels, which he insisted be shot on location.
Grey's work is celebrated in this quaint museum, which is loaded to the rafters with Grey-related photographs, letters, rare books, movie posters, memorabilia, books, videos and a Western art gallery. Located on Payson's most historic roadway at 503 W. Main St., Suite 8, the number to call for more information is (520) 474-6243.