Escape To Arizona State Parks

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Andy Towle/Roundup - atowle@payson.com

Majestic blue herons can be seen at many of Arizona’s water recreation areas.

A while back, we had a column on visiting Arizona State Parks as a way to enjoy travel on a budget. With school in the Rim Country starting later this month, another installment on our parks seems appropriate.

Homolovi Ruins State Park

Let’s begin with the Homolovi Ruins State Park near Winslow. It is the “place of the little hills,” the Hopi translation of Homolovi. The Hisat’sinom (Anasazi), ancestors of the Hopi Indians, occupied this area until about 600 years ago (A.D. 1400).

Homolovi was among the first ancestral stopping places during a time referred to by the Hopi as the “Gathering of the Clans.” The Hopi people still visit this sacred site.

The Navajo people live north of Homolovi and also have strong ties to the area, having arrived just after the Hopi migration.

Homolovi Ruins State Historic Park opened in May of 1993, but archaeological excavations have been taking place since 1896. Today, four main pueblo ruins at the park tell of the people who once lived at Homolovi.

Homolovi Two, a 1,000-plus room pueblo, is currently the most accessible archaeological site within the park.

There is a visitor center, two picnic ramadas and an interpretive building with artifacts on display. Phone: (928) 289-4106.

Buckskin Mountain State Park

Buckskin Mountain State Park is a picturesque park that commands one of the finest views along the Parker strip, an 18-mile stretch between Parker Dam and Headgate Dam. Mountains line the river on both the Arizona and California sides. The wildlife is as varied as the recreational opportunities along the river.

Buckskin Mountain State Park can provide a scenic respite, a mountain hike, a desert escape or a fun-filled water adventure. The nearby River Island unit, about one mile north, is ideal for tent campers. It offers a ramada, sandy beach, cove, and boat launch area.

The area is also rich with cultural diversity. The Colorado River Indian Reservation is just east of Parker and archaeological sites are scattered up and down Arizona’s “West Coast.”

In the summer, Buckskin Mountain State Park and River Island are most popular for boating, fishing, jet skiing, swimming, and camping amidst a backdrop of beautiful mountains.

This is a year-round destination for those looking to discover a variety of recreational resources. Phone: (928) 667-3231.

Catalina State Park

Catalina State Park, not far from Tucson, is located at the base of the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains, within the Coronado National Forest. This scenic desert park offers camping, hiking, equestrian trails, plant and wildlife viewing, and picnicking.

In the past, the Hohokam, Native American Agriculturalists who mysteriously vanished around A.D. 1400, inhabited this locale. Later, visitors sought fortunes in gold along the banks of a wash called Canada del Oro, which roughly translates into “wash of gold.” Cattle ranching was prominent until the park was established in the early 1980s.

Hiking and riding on the trails are the most popular activities among visitors. There are seven trails varying in length and difficulty. The Romero Ruin Interpretive Trail is a relatively short trail that winds through saguaro and other cacti, offering a view of the Hohokam Indian Ruins. The Romero Canon Trail is longer and climbs higher toward the top of the Catalinas and Mount Lemmon. Phone: (520) 628-5798.

Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area

Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area, not far from Show Low is situated among 100-foot pine trees beside a quiet lake with majestic blue herons. Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area provides you with wildlife opportunities and more. This recreation area, located in Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, opened in 1994, and is a year-round camping, fishing, picnicking, boating and wildlife-viewing wonderland.

The tiny town of Adair has long since been covered over by the lake, but it was Aaron Adair who was responsible for the name Fool Hollow. In 1885, Adair moved into the area with the intention of farming. The locals joked that only a fool would try and farm the place. The name stuck!

Show Low Creek flows into Fool Hollow Lake, providing a natural feeding ground for a variety of wildlife and a very diverse fishery. Phone: (928) 537-3680.

Jerome State Park

Jerome State Park, at Jerome, was once known as the “Billion Dollar Copper Camp.” It was named after Eugene Jerome who financed a mining venture in the Black Hills, overlooking the Verde Valley. As you wind your way up from the valley floor toward the hillside town the large white structure of the Douglas Mansion comes into view. Built in 1916 from adobe blocks by “Rawhide Jimmy” Douglas, it was once used to house investors and entertain mining officials.

Today the mansion is the home of Jerome State Historic Park, a museum featuring artifacts, video presentations, and exhibits on the Douglas family and the boom-and-bust history of Jerome, one of Arizona’s most famous copper camps. Phone: (928) 634-5381.

McFarland State Historic Park

In 1878, Florence was known as “the garden city.” Located in the middle of the desert, its lush grass spread outward from tall stands of cottonwood trees that lined the hard-packed streets. Farmers, ranchers and miners would join townsfolk at the courthouse, the center of activity, to socialize and transact business.

This adobe brick building, now McFarland State Historic Park, served many roles during the late 1800s and early 1900s, most notably as a jailhouse and hospital. It held the sheriff’s office, the courtroom, the judges’ chambers, and the jail.

In Arizona territory, the county sheriff was the judicial system. Most upheld the law with dignity, while a few became lawless themselves. It took strength, courage and wits to survive in Florence. It was a place where stagecoaches were robbed by women like Pearl Hart and saloons outnumbered churches 28 to one.

Today, the park is filled with the history of Arizona and the characters who lived there. Phone: (520) 868-5216.

Patagonia Lake

Tucked away in the rolling hills of southeastern Arizona is a hidden treasure. Patagonia Lake was established in 1975 as a state park and is an ideal place to find whitetail deer roaming the hills and great blue herons walking the shoreline.

The campground overlooks a 265-acre man-made lake where anglers catch crappie, bass, bluegill and catfish. Trout is stocked every three weeks from November until late February.

Hikers can stroll along the beautiful creek trail and see a variety of birds such as the canyon towhee, Inca dove, vermilion flycatcher, black vulture and several species of hummingbirds.

Patagonia is not only a beautiful scenic area, but also offers a great variety of recreational opportunities.

You’ll find a beach, picnic area with armadas, tables and grills, creek trail, boat ramps, marina and camp supply store. Phone: (520) 287-6965.

Riordan Mansion

A tour of the Riordan Mansion is a journey back in time through the early 20th century house of Timothy and Michael Riordan. Massive stone arches flank the porch of the unique split log, plank and shingle home. Charles Whittesey was still in the process of completing the Grand Canyon’s El Tovar hotel when he was hired by Timothy Riordan to design the Riordan Mansion. This unique Craftsman-style home was created as a duplex for the two Riordan brothers and their families. The Park features an authentic and historic environment filled with furnishings, artifacts, collections, and personal mementos of the Riordan families. The 45-minute guided tour of Timothy’s house introduces you to the Riordan families and reveals a pristine setting of early 1900 Arts and Crafts style furnishings and original embellishments. Tim was a well-traveled man who enjoyed telling stories and the dining room was designed to enhance this activity. Warm and colorful stained glass windows complement the refined interior. Hand-made period furniture, as well as creations by Gustav Stickley, the renowned Father of the American Arts and Crafts movement, are also on exhibit. Phone: (928) 779-4395.

Please enjoy these special locations within our state. I know you will find interest in each and every one.

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