Alexander Duff came to Arizona Territory in 1879, a trapper, prospector, and market hunter, married to a Shoshone Indian woman. He left the territory in 1906 as a respected hotel and mercantile owner, with a whole new family. In between he homesteaded at a beautiful spot on the Verde River, overlooked by a centuries-old cliff dwelling, where a crystal-clear spring bears his name; a locale still miles from any road today. He then became one of the early movers and shakers of Jerome Junction, terminus of the narrow-gauge railroad to the copper mines of Jerome and precursor community to Chino Valley. Join us in on this exploration of Duff’s story and of some of the history and natural features while visiting both these localities, prominent in the early history of Yavapai County, including discussing the prehistoric inhabitants.
The video link will be emailed upon registration.
Date Creek flows from the crest of the Weaver Mountains above Yarnell west into a vast desert plain, studded with rugged mountain ridges, finally joining the Santa Maria River above Alamo Lake. Originally home to the Yavapai People, Date Creek’s first Anglo visitors were led by Charles Genung in 1863, who upon seeing one of the creek’s green valleys declared it to be the Garden of Eden. Near this spot the military post of Camp Date Creek operated from 1867-1874. We will explore this little-known landscape, seeing ancient rock art, viewing the ruins of Camp Date Creek, visiting with modern ranchers, and searching for the elusive beaver reintroduced along the creek in recent decades. We will also observe a little-known historic rock art site from 1864. Date Creek is so remote that less than fifty people live within a mile of its course. The video link will be emailed upon registration.
When the Santa Fe Railroad was constructing their line across northern Arizona in the early 1880s, they overcame many physical obstacles in the rugged landscapes they traversed. One of the more difficult was the steep drop westwards off the Coconino Plateau, between Williams and Ash Fork. Their surveyors and engineers chose a somewhat obscure canyon as the optimum route off the plateau, a canyon so rugged that it required the only tunnel from Albuquerque to Los Angeles. We will explore this canyon, visiting many man-made features related to the construction and operation of the railroad, including the now-abandoned Johnson Canyon Tunnel and the only functional dam of steel construction in the United States. Our explorations will also include some strange and interesting natural features, and we will hear the story of rancher and homesteader George Johnson, after whom the canyon is named. The video link will be emailed upon registration.
In 1863, during the height of the Civil War, several parties of intrepid prospectors discovered gold in the flanks of what became known as the Bradshaw Mountains. While the Walker party was most notable, the range was named for one of others, William Bradshaw, who died under mysterious circumstances in La Paz, on the Colorado River, in December of 1864.
We’ll explore the southern part of the range, prominent in the view from Sunset Point on I-17, visiting quirky desert communities like Cleator (home of the Cleator Bar and Yacht Club) and Bumblebee (what’s in a name?), ghost mining and railroad locales, and the little mountain town of Crown King. We will be traveling in significant part via the route of Frank Murphy’s “Impossible Railroad”, built from Mayer to Crown King in the first years of the 20th Century despite many naysayers who claimed it couldn’t be done.
Along the way, we will talk about the original Yavapai Indian inhabitants, the challenges of passage via rail, and some of the history of mining in the rugged and forbidding landscape of the Southern Bradshaws. The video link will be emailed upon registration.
Leading southwards into Verde Valley are two spectacular red rock canyons. To the east, well-known and heavily visited Oak Creek Canyon is followed by highway, although the west flanks are wilderness area. To the west, lightly visited Sycamore Canyon is entirely wilderness area. Between the lower ends of these canyons is still more wilderness area, surrounding on three sides is a nearly unknown landscape of utterly amazing views, exotic volcanic features, and canyons so steep and wild as to require technical climbing gear to traverse. Enjoy exploring this wild country with us via remote and rugged back roads. We’ll talk about geology, natural history, and forest management; the handful of early pioneers who braved this remote wilderness; and the historic logging railroads that once traversed the area. The video link will be emailed upon registration.
In 1903, two young girls traveled to Grand Canyon with their families. They rode from Flagstaff to the Canyon by stagecoach, stayed in the historic, long extinct Grand View Hotel and took a 3-day trip by burro into the Canyon with Captain John Hance, the Canyon’s first tour operator and renowned storyteller. Chris Wuehrmann, our trip leader, met these two girls when they were nearing 90 years of age during a Yavapai College program in 1981, when they shared their unique memories. With their childhood experience as inspiration, he re-creates their journey to the Canyon via the route of the Moqui Stage. The trip loops west of San Francisco Peaks through pine and aspen forest, then north through largely uninhabited ranch country to the little-known Grandview Entrance to Grand Canyon National Park. Follow along as he visits the South Rim sites of both John Hance’s compound and the Grand View Hotel, owned, and operated by Pete Berry. We will hear about their histories as miners and tour operators in the Grandview Point area, in addition to little-known histories of other Northern Arizona pioneers and places. The video link will be emailed upon registration.