Special Spots In Rim Country

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Fall and winter can bring changeable weather. So, if you want to keep warm and dry during a soggy visit to the Rim Country, you may want to go to the area's museums and libraries.

The Gila County Library District has published a beautiful guide to the area's libraries and museums -- it is free and available at the places it features.

The Rim Country can claim eight of the special spots in the guide: the Strawberry Schoolhouse Museum, the Isabelle Hunt Memorial Library, Tonto Natural Bridge, Pine-Strawberry Historical Museum, Museum of the Rim Country Archaeology, Payson Public Library, Zane Grey Museum, Rim Country Museum, and one not included, the Shoofly Ruins.

In Payson

The Payson area is home to the Museum of the Rim Country Archaeology, Zane Grey Museum, Rim Country Museum, Payson Public Library and the Shoofly Ruins.

The following information is from the county guide, which was paid for through a grant.

Museum of Rim Country Archaeology

The outside of this special place, at 510 W. Main, is unpretentious. It housed the community's library for many years, and is neighbor to the meeting place of one of the town's oldest organizations, the Payson Womans Club. There is no hint that a state-of-the-art museum lies inside.

The museum gives a complete look at the field of archaeology through photographs, murals and artifacts.

Visitors are greeted by a display of photographs of early and more recent archaeologists in action. It includes an international display of archaeological sites, a glossary of terms and an explanation of the impact archaeology has on other fields.

The largest part of the museum holds artifacts of the Anasazi, Hohokom and Salado people and includes a hands-on exhibit as well.

For more information, call (928) 468-1128 or visit the Web site rimcountrymuseums.com Admission is $2.50 for adults, $2 for those 55 and older, $1.50 for those 12 to 18, and free for those under 12. The museum is open from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey Museum

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The original cabin built on the Mogollon Rim by Zane Grey was destroyed by the Dude Fire in 1990. Volunteers reconstructed a replica in Green Valley Park.

Both are at 700 Green Valley Parkway in Green Valley Park at the west end of West Main in Payson.

The Rim Country Museum is an historical representation of the Rim Country, beginning with an Apache Dwelling and continuing through approximately 1960. It includes a working miniature sawmill, artifacts from the U.S. Army presence, a replica of a mining tunnel, a blacksmith shop, a still from Prohibition days when people came from as far away as California for some Payson Dew, plus rotating exhibits.

The Zane Grey Museum is a meticulous reproduction of Grey's Cabin, which was destroyed by the Dude Fire in 1990. It was built as true to the original as possible, including the mistakes made in the 1920s construction. Inside it looks as it did when Zane Grey lived there.

Grey, the "father of the western novel" was the author of 57 novels, more than 200 short stories and 10 nonfiction books. Movies made from his works are credited with launching the careers of Shirley Temple, John Wayne, Randolph Scott and others. Much of his writing was done at his cabin on the Mogollon Rim.

Both the Rim Country and Zane Grey Museums are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Monday, admission is $3 for adults, $2.50 for seniors, $2 for students 12 to 18, and free for those under 12. For more information about either, call (928) 474-3483.

Payson Public Library

The Payson Public Library is at 328 N. McLane Road, Payson, hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

The Payson Public Library is situated in Rumsey Park. Large, spacious windows take advantage of the beautiful views.

This modern and cheerful library hosts a number of innovative programs for residents of all ages. There is a reading advisory group, children's reading programs, proctor service for distance learning, several public access stations and a program to bring books to shut-ins.

The library also sponsors a mentoring program in conjunction with the court where juvenile offenders can "read their way off probation" while obtaining a GED.

The Payson Public Library staff is aided by more than 50 volunteers, as well as an enthusiastic and dedicated Library Friends organization.

For more information, call (928) 474-9260.

Shoofly Village

From a Tonto National Forest publication

People have lived in the shadow of the Mogollon Rim in the Payson area for more than 5,000 years.

The technology of the prehistoric people who lived here was rich and varied. Spears and bows and arrows were used for hunting.

Native farmers grew corn, beans and squash along the many streams in the area, and built stone terraces on the mesa tops to catch rainfall and create additional pockets of soil for planting.

Stone tools were made for processing meat, hides and bone and for grinding corn. Baskets and ceramic pots were made and used for gathering storage and cooking.

Clothing was made of buckskin and cotton, sometimes woven with feathers of strips of rabbit fur.

Argillite, a soft red stone, was used to make beads and other jewelry.

Ancient travel routes led south into the Sonoran Desert and north onto the Colorado Plateau, bringing new ideas and exotic trade items such as decorated pottery, obsidian and carved shell jewelry.

The earliest people in the Payson area did not have permanent settlements. They moved around to where wild foods were most readily available in any given season.

They adopted agriculture sometime around 300 A.D. This new practice, although more productive, tied people to one place.

A fast-growing and settled population soon began to put increasing pressure on those areas best suited to farming, hunting and gathering. This led to a greater emphasis on agriculture, often in marginal areas, and may also have resulted in conflicts between local groups. All of these things combined to increase the level of complexity in prehistoric Payson.

Up until about 1000 A.D. the people of the Payson area lived in small settlements made up of only a few families each. As the need to share labor for farming or defense grew, villages like Shoofly Village developed.

Rapid changes in social organization marked the 11th and 12th centuries under the Rim.

The range of architectural types at Shoofly village mirrors these changes. The oval houses, the separate square building, the courtyard walls, the large room block and the outer compound wall each represent different experiments in social and economic arrangements.

Shoofly Village was built and occupied between A.D. 1000 and 1250 by people who had close cultural ties to the Hohokom and Salado people then living in the deserts and mountains to the south.

By the time the village was established, however, they had developed their own distinctive culture.

The village contains 87 rooms and many courtyards, all surrounded by a compound wall that encloses about four acres.

It is arranged into three groups of rooms that were constructed at different times during the history of the site.

The single unit, oval-shaped rooms are the earliest, with the rectangular rooms, particularly clustered into the large block at the center of the site, built later.

Many of the rooms appear to have been occupied at the same time. The walled courtyards suggest that families or other small social groups maintained separate identities within the village.

The compound wall was built during the late period of construction. The boulders of dark basalt used in the wall contrast against the red sandstone used in most of the rooms. The wall was at least three feet high and may have been higher. The fact that no houses are found outside the wall suggests that it was built for protection.

The discovery of a lot of corn in the rooms along with many grinding stones indicates that agriculture was important in the village's economy. Nearby springs supplied water for domestic use.

Located with three miles of Shoofly Village are 40 other sites. Agricultural features, such as check dams and terraces at these sites suggest that they may have been used by the villagers during the farming season.

Little is known about the religious of social customs of Shoofly Village. Ceremonies and dances were probably conducted in the open courtyards, since no ceremonial structures have been found.

The abandonment of Shoofly Village was a gradual process that ended around 1250 A.D. when the entire Payson region was abandoned. Possible reasons include drought and social unrest.

It is not known where the people of Shoofly Village and the other Payson area settlements went. Perhaps some of them moved west to uplands along the East Verde River or south to join the Salado communities in Tonto Basin -- which were abandoned about 150 years later.

Others may have moved north and east to join the ancestors of today's Hopi and Zuni.

Archaeologists are still working to solve this puzzle.

Getting there

Shoofly Village is located five miles northeast of Payson. Take State Highway 87 north from Payson to Houston Mesa Road (immediately to your right after the roundabout) and turn east.

The road splits, with the left part going into the Mesa del Caballo subdivision, the ruins are off the right part a short distance past the subdivision. There is a parking lot just off the paved road, to the right. Facilities provided at the site include picnic tables, ramadas, toilets and a handicap-accessible self-guided interpretive trail.

Wear good walking shoes and carry water with you -- the site is at an elevation of 5,240 feet.

Tonto Natural Bridge

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Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is one of jewels among the many treasures of the Rim Country. During a visit, you can view it from a distance from the top and walkways or hike into it as well as all around it on four developed trails of varying difficulty.

The Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is between Payson and Pine, to the west of State Highway 87.

Located 12 miles north of Payson, the Tonto Natural Bridge is believed to be the world's largest travertine bridge, it is 183 feet high and 400 feet in length.

Travertine bridges are created when travertine, a porous calcite, is deposited from ground and surface waters. In the case of the Tonto Natural Bridge, springs from limestone aquifers formed the travertine and over thousands of years, the waters of Pine Creek eroded it to create the bridge.

It sits in a tiny valley surrounded by a pine and scrub oak forest. The fall colors are spectacular and during the cooler weather the facility has a tranquility to it, as most visitors come to the park in the summer.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department have designated the park a wildlife viewing area, where a variety of wildlife and birds can be seen.

The lodge at the bridge, built in the 1920s, made it the site of one of the earliest dude ranches and was used as a backdrop for many western novels, according to information in the county's directory for libraries and museums.

The lodge is closed to visitors, however there is a gift shop with a display of antiques from previous occupants.

There are four hiking trails in the park, all are steep and strenuous and pets are not allowed. There are also four, more accessible viewpoints at the parking lot level.

The park is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. through October and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. November through April, closed only on Christmas Day. Admission is $3 for those 14 and older and free for those under 14. For more information, call (928) 476-4202.

In Pine

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Visitors and residents can take Rim Country treasures home from the many antique and collectible stores in Payson and Pine.

Among the special places open to the public in the Pine area are the Pine-Strawberry Historical Museum, the Isabelle Hunt Memorial Library and the Strawberry Schoolhouse.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Oct. 16 through May 14, and until 4 p.m. the rest of the year. It is on the west side of State Highway 87, nearly in the middle of the Pine community, and part of the larger Pine Community Center.

Originally, the museum was a single room in the Isabelle Hunt Memorial Library, now it has its own building -- formerly the Pine-Strawberry School administration building and before that, the Pine branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The museum, which also houses the Pine-Strawberry branch of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, has a variety of displays, but look up first. The ceiling is made of ornate tin panels. The displays include Native American artifacts, exhibits depicting the life of early settlers.

Of special note is the "Museum of the Door," according to the county's guide. It is a 150-pound door built from a redwood flume used to carry water in the early 1900s and inset with iron forged into symbols telling the story of the community.

To learn more about the museum, call (928) 476-3547.

The Isabelle Hunt Memorial Library in Pine is to the north of the community center, at 6124 N. Randall Place.

Every inch of the 2,000 square foot building is in use. In winter, people come and sit by the fire to read. There are story times for children, computers to use, FAX and copy machines for public use.

The library has two special collections: the Southwest Collection and the Western Collection.

The library is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. For more information, call (928) 476-3678.

The original Isabelle Hunt Memorial Library is on display on the east side of Highway 87 across from the community center.

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The Strawberry School was built in 1884, after Gila County was created, but because the boundaries were not clear, Yavapai County furnished the building.

Strawberry School

Established in 1884, the Strawberry School was built midway between settlers' cabins. The building was made of logs with a shake shingle roof and glass windows that could be raised and lowered. The interior of the schoolhouse was also better than most schools of its time, with wainscoting and wallpaper. It was used as a social center, meeting place and church, as well as a school by the families living in Strawberry until it closed in 1916.

It is only open from mid-May to mid-October, but the grounds around it can be seen at any time.

The school is on Fossil Creek Road, west of Highway 87. For more information, call (928) 476-2164.

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