15 Fascinating Historic Sites in the American Southwest 

The American Southwest blends nature and history in a beautiful way. Coyotes, canyons, and brilliant sun-kissed rock formations mark the region’s desert terrain. It’s also home to hundreds of national parks and monuments including the Grand Canyon. While there are a number of places you will want to see on your trip, be sure to stop and check out these Historic Sites in the Southwest.

The stories of the American Southwest extend well beyond the history of the United States. From the Indigenous peoples who built cliffside castles to the Spanish explorers who established missions and the cowboys of the Wild West—the history of this region is incredibly diverse.

To learn more about what makes the Southwest so captivating, check out 15 of the region’s best historic sites and the fascinating stories behind them.

Montezuma Castle © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Montezuma Castle, Camp Verde, Arizona

Embedded into the side of a sheer limestone cliff, Montezuma Castle dates back to around 1100 BC and was established as a national monument in 1906. The cliffside abode was named incorrectly by settlers who believed it to be of Aztec origin. In reality, the Sinagua peoples who inhabited the Verde Valley of Arizona for thousands of years, built and occupied the castle. Naturally warm in the winter and cool in the summer, the site of the cliff dwellings was chosen due to preexisting caves and nearby water resources; inhabitants used wooden ladders to move throughout the settlement’s five levels.

To see the historic monument, start at the Visitor Center before walking up to the base of Montezuma Castle on a 0.3-mile loop trail. Then, you can drive to Montezuma Well, a naturally occurring sinkhole and the site of more cliff dwellings. The land around the well was home to prehistoric groups of people approximately 1,000 years ago before being settled by Anglo-Americans in the late 19th century.

Check this out to learn more: Apartment House of the Ancients: Montezuma Castle National Monument

Montezuma Well © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Four Corners Monument, Teec Nos Pos, Arizona

Located in Navajo Tribal Park, the Four Corners Monument is the only point in the country where four states meet. Marking the point where the Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah state lines coalesce, the historic landmark also marks the boundary between the Navajo Nation and Ute Mountain Tribe Reservation. 

However, the monument’s history goes further back than just statehood. During the Civil War, Congress created several new territories—including Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico—to discourage residents from joining the Confederacy. In 1861, Congress voted for a marker to be placed in the monument’s exact location to demonstrate the southwest corner of the Colorado territory.

Palace of the Governors © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Dating to 1610, the Palace of the Governors is the oldest public building in the contiguous U.S. still in continuous use. For nearly three centuries, the building was home to a rotating roster of Spanish, Mexican, and American governors as control over the New Mexico territory shifted and changed. Additionally, the native Pueblo peoples took over the palace during the Pueblo Revolt of the 17th century while the Confederacy occupied it during the Civil War.

Today, the Palace of the Governors is part of the New Mexico History Museum with interpretive galleries displaying its history and a palatial courtyard that connects to the rest of the museum. For visitors to Santa Fe, the palace features a block-long portal where Native American vendors sell their artisan wares and crafts.

Plan your next trip to Santa Fe with these resources:

Whiskey Row © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Whiskey Row, Prescott, Arizona

This legendary block in Arizona earned its moniker in the late 19th century when the street consisted of whiskey saloons favored by the local cowboys and miners. After a lit candle burned most of the downtown area in 1900, a group of locals famously rescued the actual bar from the Palace Saloon and began drinking their sorrows away. A year later, a new downtown was erected in a more fire-safe brick and the same bar was installed inside the new Palace Restaurant and Saloon.

Today, visitors can belly up at the historic bar or visit myriad other notable sites located on the city block. Rumored to be haunted by a lady in white, Hotel St. Michael has housed a number of famous guests over the past century including the likes of Teddy Roosevelt and Doc Holiday. And while galleries and shops now decorate the historic square, famed establishments like the Jersey Lilly Saloon still embody the historic spirit of Whiskey Row.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas

Before it became the site of perhaps the most infamous battle in the Southwest, the Alamo was known as the San Antonio de Valero Mission. In 1724, Spanish colonizers established the church to convert the area’s Native American peoples.

It wasn’t until the 1835 Texas Revolution that the former mission became a war fortress and battle site. Stationed in the Alamo in 1836, Texas revolutionaries fought against Mexico in the Battle of the Alamo, a bloody 13-day squirmish that resulted in the deaths of all the defenders. Although they lost the battle, Texas later won independence from Mexico and would eventually become an American state nine years later.

Today, the Alamo is open and free to visitors although reservations must be made in advance. With guided and self-guided tours available, the Alamo is also part of the San Antonio Missions Trail giving cyclists easy access to the city’s network of historic missions.

If you need ideas, check out:

Besh Ba Gowah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum, Globe, Arizona

One mile southwest of the City of Globe, Arizona, stand the remains of a large pueblo village constructed by the Salado culture who occupied the region between 1225 and 1450.

The pueblo is known today as Besh Ba Gowah, a term originally given by the Apache people to the early mining settlement of Globe. Roughly translated, the term means place of metal

The partially reconstructed pueblo structures along with the adjacent museum provide a fascinating glimpse at the lifestyle of the people who thrived in the ancient Southwest.

Besh-Ba-Gowah had about 400 rooms of these about 250 were ground floor rooms. Precise numbers are impossible due to modern destruction of sections. Entrance to the pueblo was via a long narrow ground level corridor covered by the second level. The corridor opened onto the main plaza. This may have had a defensive purpose.

Check this out to learn more: Exploring a Remarkable Pueblo: Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park

Mesa Verde © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Mesa Verde National Park, Mancos, Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park’s cliff dwellings are just one wonder to be found at this national park in Colorado which also includes protected wilderness.

Located in Southwestern Colorado, Mesa Verde, Green Table in Spanish, National Park offers an unparalleled opportunity to see and experience a unique cultural and physical landscape. Including more than 4,000 known archeological sites dating back to A.D. 550, this national treasure protects the cliff dwellings and mesa top sites of pit houses, pueblos, masonry towers, and farming structures of the Ancestral Pueblo peoples who lived here for more than 700 years. This national park gives us a glimpse into the places and stories of America’s diverse cultural heritage.

The cliff dwellings are some of the most notable and best preserved sites in the United States. After living primarily on the mesa top for 600 years, the Ancestral Pueblo peoples began building structure under the overhanging cliffs of Mesa Verde—anything from one-room storage units to villages of over 150 rooms. Decades of excavation and analysis still leave many unanswered questions, but have shown us that the Ancient Pueblans were skillful survivors and artistic craftsmen.

By the way, I have a series of posts on Mesa Verde:

Canyon de Chelly © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Chinle, Arizona

For nearly 5,000 years, people have lived in these canyons—longer than anyone has lived uninterrupted anywhere on the Colorado Plateau. In the place called Tsegi, their homes and images tell us their stories. Today, Dine’ families make their homes, raise livestock, and farm the lands in the canyons. A place like no other, the park and Navajo Nation work together to manage the land’s resources.

Canyon de Chelly sustains a living community of Navajo people who are connected to a landscape of great historical and spiritual significance—a landscape composed of places infused with collective memory. NPS works in partnership with the Navajo Nation to manage park resources and sustain the Navajo community.

Explore a 900-year old ancestral Pueblo Great House of over 400 masonry rooms. Look up and see the original timbers holding up the roof. Search for the fingerprints of ancient workers in the mortar. Listen for an echo of ritual drums in the reconstructed Great Kiva.

Here are some helpful resources:

Aztec Ruins © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Aztec Ruins National Monument, Aztec, New Mexico

Aztec Ruins National Monument is the largest Ancestral Pueblo community in the Animas River Valley. In use for over 200 years, the site contains several multi-story buildings called great houses, each with a great kiva—a circular ceremonial chamber—as well as many smaller structures. Excavation of the West Ruin in the 1900s uncovered thousands of well-preserved artifacts that provide a glimpse into the life of Ancestral Pueblo people connecting people of the past with people and traditions of today. 

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Aztec Ruins National Monument

Casa Grande Ruins © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, Coolidge, Arizona

Casa Grande Ruins, the nation’s first archeological preserve, protects the Casa Grande and other archeological sites within its boundaries.

For over a thousand years, prehistoric farmers inhabited much of the present-day state of Arizona. When the first Europeans arrived, all that remained of this ancient culture were the ruins of villages, irrigation canals, and various artifacts. Among these ruins is the Casa Grande, or Big House, one of the largest and most mysterious prehistoric structures ever built in North America. See the Casa Grande and hear the story of the ancient ones the Akimel O’otham call the Hohokam, those who are gone.

Check this out to learn more: The Mystique of the Casa Grande Ruins

Petroglyph National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Petroglyph National Monument protects one of the largest petroglyph sites and features volcanic rock carved by Native American and Spanish settlers.

Petroglyph National Monument protects a variety of cultural and natural resources including five volcanic cones, hundreds of archeological sites, and an estimated 25,000 images carved by native peoples and early Spanish settlers.

Many of the images are recognizable as animals, people, brands, and crosses; others are more complex. Their meaning, possibly, may have been understood only by the carver. These images are inseparable from the greater cultural landscape, from the spirits of the people who created them, and from all who appreciate them.

If you need ideas, check out: Adventure in Albuquerque: Petroglyph National Monument

12. Coronado Historic Site, Bernalillo, New Mexico

Home to the partially reconstructed ruins of the ancient Pueblos of Kuaua, this historic site dates back to 1300 DC. Inhabited by the ancestral Puebloans, Kuaua was the largest Pueblo complex in the region with roughly 1,200 ground-floor rooms and 10 to 20 large kivas. Each kiva (underground ceremonial room) is painted with layers of intricate murals revealing stories of the Pueblo peoples and representing some of the best examples of pre-Columbian art in the U.S.

Today, the village is known as the Coronado Historic Site named for Spanish explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado who discovered the village in 1540 during his search for the fabled Seven Cities of Gold. The Puebloans were gracious toward their guests at first although their hospitality eventually faded and Coronado and his troops moved on. History buffs can visit these reconstructed kivas to see the well-preserved murals, as well as walk the site’s interpretive trails, complete with views of the Sandia Mountains and the Rio Grande.

Hovenweep © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Hovenweep National Monument, Utah and Colorado

Noted for its solitude and undeveloped, natural character, Hovenweep National Monument was once home to more than 2,500 people in 900 A.D. In 1923, Hovenweep was proclaimed by President Warren G. Harding a unit of the national park system. The name Hovenweep is a Paiute/Ute word meaning deserted valley.

A group of five well-preserved village ruins over a 20-mile radius of mesa tops and canyons, these ancient Pueblo ruins include towers that remind visitors of European castles. Straddling the Utah-Colorado border, the ruins were built about the same time as medieval fortresses.

The largest and most accessible of the six units of ruins is Square Tower where several well-preserved structures are located. The area was home for several prehistoric farming villages. Throughout the ruins, visitors may find castles, towers, check dams (for irrigation), cliff dwellings, pueblos, and houses. Petroglyphs (rock art) can also be found in the area.

Here are some helpful resources:

Tuzigoot Ruins © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Tuzigoot National Monument, Arizona

The Southern Sinagua built a ridge-top pueblo at Tuzigoot around 1100 AD and continued to add new rooms until the 1400s. This pueblo housed about 50 people. The Sinagua would often use a large pueblo as a dwelling and community center surrounded by additional smaller dwellings and outbuildings connected to agriculture.

While the region has a mostly arid climate, the marsh and river provide a source of fresh water, wild game, fish, and turtles to the Sinagua. Although summers are hot, a very long growing season allowed for the organized cultivation of crops as a supplement to food taken from the marsh and the river.

Despite the comfortable natural setting, the Sinagua left the pueblo at Tuzigoot for unknown reasons around the year 1450. Possibly the valley became overcrowded and the Southern Sinagua moved to different locations or were absorbed by other tribes. When the Sinagua abandoned Tuzigoot, they left behind many artifacts, some of which are on display in the visitor center.

Today, much of the ruin at Tuzigoot has been reconstructed to provide a safe and stable environment for visitors; however, the main tower is mostly original and is open to the public. The pueblo is accessible as part of a short loop trail. An additional trail leads out to a viewing area overlooking the marsh that was so important to the Sinagua.

Read more: An Ancient Village on the Hill: How Life was Lived at Tuzigoot

Tumacacori © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Tumacácori National Historic Park, Tumacácori, Arizona

Tumacácori sits at a cultural crossroads in the Santa Cruz River valley and is where O’odham, Yaqui, and Apache people mixed with Europeans.

From his arrival in the Pimería Alta in 1687 until he died in 1711, Padre Kino established over twenty missions. The Jesuit missionaries administered them until the time of their expulsion in 1767. From 1768 until after Mexico got her independence in 1821 the missions were operated by the Franciscan missionaries. Some are still in use today while others have fallen into ruin.

Tumacácori National Historical Park in the upper Santa Cruz River Valley of southern Arizona is comprised of the abandoned ruins of three of these ancient Spanish colonial missions. San Jos de Tumacácori and Los Santos Angeles de Guevavi, established in 1691, are the two oldest missions in Arizona. San Cayetano de Calabazas, was established in 1756.

Check this out to learn more: Tumacácori National Historic Park: More Than Just Adobe, Plaster & Wood

Worth Pondering…

Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.

—Miriam Beard

These Historic Arizona Towns Can Make your Next Road Trip more Fun

Arizona small historical towns each have a unique history and character-perfect for a road trip. See my fave mining, western, and funky artsy spots and work one (or three) into YOUR next road trip.

Visit any of these charming historic towns in Arizona if you want to bask in the rich heritage of the American Wild West. While some are still well populated, a handful of ghost towns are on this list which adds a fun and mysterious element to your adventure. Enjoy the scenic views and well-preserved local history and take a glimpse into American life during the turn of the century. Any or all of these historic towns in Arizona is a worthy visit for history and nature lovers alike.

Williams © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Williams: Gateway to the Grand Canyon

Two things distinguish Williams: Route 66 and the Grand Canyon. Williams describes itself as “the best-preserved stretch of Route 66.” It was the last town on the mother road to be bypassed by Interstate 40 (in 1984) so it hung on to its Route 66 identity. The center of town with its diners, motels, and shops is a designated National Historic District.

We first came here to use it as a base for taking the train to the Grand Canyon but found the town itself charming. The town is the headquarters of the Grand Canyon Historic Railway and Hotel.

Williams © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Because of its proximity to the park, many Grand Canyon tour operators are based in Williams. Kaibab National Forest surrounds the town, with plenty of hiking, biking, and fishing opportunities for outdoor lovers.

>> Get more tips for visiting Williams

Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tombstone: Hootin’, hollerin’ Wild West

It would be hard to get more Old West in Arizona historical towns than Tombstone (The Town Too Tough To Die). It is one of the most frequented destinations in the state for history buffs since this is home to the famous OK Corral where the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday gunned down the ornery Clanton-McLaury gang. But there’s a lot more to Tombstone including a rich silver mining history and clashes with the Apaches.

Tombstone Courthouse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tombstone has done much to preserve its Old West atmosphere. The main street is still dirt and cars must share the road with horses, Western wear shops, restaurants, and saloons line the wooden sidewalks. Historic sights include the Birdcage Theater and Tombstone Courthouse.

>> Get more tips for visiting Tombstone

Prescott Courthouse Plaza © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Prescott: Epitome of small town America

Prescott is one of the most charming Arizona small towns. A classic old courthouse anchors the central square. (Remember the old Back to the Future movies? It wouldn’t be surprising to see Marty McFly zipping by in his SteamPunk DeLorean.) Pretty Victorian homes and cottages line the downtown streets.

Restaurants, boutiques, antique shops, cafes, and western wear outfitters surround the courthouse square. Visit historic Whiskey Row so called because that’s where all the hootin’ and hollerin’ happened. Today you can do a bit of hootin’ and hollerin’ of your own on Whiskey Row as you don your Western duds—many of the bars feature live music.

Watson Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That western atmosphere is legit: Prescott is also home to the world’s oldest rodeo with the grounds about a half mile northwest of downtown. Nearby Prescott National Forest, Watson Lake, and Lynx Lake provide numerous opportunities for outdoor pursuits. Additionally, four of Arizona’s prominent museums are in Prescott allowing for an educational visit while you are in town.

>> Get more tips for visiting Prescott

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bisbee: Funky, artsy, and historic

Bisbee was established in 1876 as a copper mining town tucked away in the southeastern part of Arizona. The area once known as the Queen of the Copper Camps is home to a charming community among the Mule Mountains, popular with artists and retirees. The mine is no longer operational but Bisbee has now transformed itself into a cool and funky destination with a sort of Victorian-meets-midcentury kind of vibe.

Queen Mine © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Learn how copper helped shape both the town and the nation at the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum and then see the real deal underground on a Queen Mine Tour. Browse Bisbee’s many art galleries and spend the night (or three) at the Shady Dell Vintage Trailer Court or one of the town’s picturesque bed and breakfasts.

Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yuma: An Old West border town

Yuma is a small Arizona town in the extreme southwest corner of the state. Sitting along the banks of the Colorado River made Yuma a strategic location in the 18th and 19th centuries. Initially, it was missionaries who traveled this route. Passing through Yuma became one of the fastest ways to get out west during the California Gold Rush.

Yuma Territorial Prison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today visitors to Yuma can get the feel of a real Old West town by visiting the historic downtown. The center of town took off during the gold rush years. Yuma was also home to the Yuma Territorial Prison which is now a state park. (The prison figured largely in the classic Western movie 3:10 to Yuma). Visit the Colorado River State Historic Park to learn about the importance of the crossing throughout the past few centuries.

>> Get more tips for visiting Yuma

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oatman: A braying good time

The ghost town of Oatman is a worthy destination to visit for history lovers and you will find businesses operating there despite the lack of residents. A must-stop on a Route 66 road trip, Oatman is another former mining town that offers the chance for visitors to experience the Old West as pictured in so many cowboy films.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While it’s a ghost town, in recent years it’s taken on new life as a popular tourist attraction. Wild burros roam the streets in search of treats, the carrots that are purchased from one of the numerous carrot stands. In fact, more burros reside in Oatman than humans. The population of about 100 people is mainly business owners who make a living off of the steady stream of tourist traffic that runs through the town annually.

>> Get more tips for visiting Oatman

Tubac Presido State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tubac: Artsy historic fun

Tubac is a small historic town 47 miles south of Tucson that today is a thriving artist colony. Unlike most Arizona small towns, the history of Tubac predates mining and cattle. Because of its location along the Santa Cruz River, it was a settlement for native tribes. Inhabited for 11,000 years before being established as a Spanish Presidio in 1752, the area is steeped in history which can be explored in Tubac Presidio State Historic Park. Here, hundreds of years and layers of history mingle together incorporating Native Peoples, Spanish Missionaries, and Mexican and American soldiers. History buffs should visit Tumacácori National Historic Park 5 miles south of town.

Tubac’s multiple art galleries line the sleepy streets of Tubac. The Tubac Center of the Arts hosts rotating exhibits, art workshops, and performances.

>> Get more tips for visiting Tubac

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jerome: Wicked and a little creepy

Jerome is a unique former copper mining town that’s perched up high on Cleopatra Hill, not far from Sedona. It’s a hair-raising drive up a twisty road to get there (Look straight ahead, not down). But the good part is the view of the surrounding valley is spectacular. You can even see many of Sedona’s red rocks in the distance.

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jerome once had so many saloons it was dubbed The Wickedest Town in America. Now you can browse its funky shops and wet your whistle at atmospheric bars and restaurants. It also offers history buffs a wealth of experience through the Mine Museum displaying artifacts representing the town past and present. The Jerome State Historic Park, home to the Douglas Mansion, is now a museum.

Cottonwood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cottonwood: Water & wine

Cottonwood sits alongside the Verde River in the valley just south of Jerome. Due to its location along a river, Cottonwood is a unique small Arizona town: it began its life as a farming community in the late 1800s. The cute main street has a midcentury feel.

Our first visit to Cottonwood in 2000 showed a small town without a lot going on. However, all those storefronts in Old Town with potential couldn’t stay empty for long. On numerous return visits, I’ve been delighted to see a town full of unique shops, cafes, and wine tasting rooms.

Cottonwood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cottonwood has stayed true to its agricultural roots. Tuzigoot National Monument is just outside of town, the stone remains of this Indian pueblo providing evidence that this has been a prime growing country for centuries. The Verde Valley Wine Trail provides more modern evidence: rows of vines grace the gently sloping hills surrounding town and that musky smell of fermenting grapes permeates the air. Over 20 wineries and tasting rooms are open for sampling in and around the town.

>> Get more tips for visiting Cottonwood

Globe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Globe: Salado pueblo and copper

Globe was founded in the 1870s on copper mining and cattle and both are still important industries today. This central Arizona small town is equidistant from Phoenix and Tucson and makes a nice day trip or weekend destination.

Besh-ba-Gowah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the heart of Southern Arizona sits the former mining camp known as Globe. Founded in 1876 and incorporated in 1907, this lovely town is brimming with century-old buildings, cottages, and hillside houses. The historic downtown area is perfect for leisurely strolls and shopping for antiques while the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts is a great spot to explore and experience the talent of some incredible artists. Other areas of interest include the Besh-ba-Gowah Archeological Park which features stunning ruins of a Salado pueblo along with an accompanying museum.

>> Get more tips for visiting Globe

Kingman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kingman: Cars, trains, and electricity

Kingman was established as a railroad town in the 1880s and soon grew thanks to mining in the surrounding area. Historic Route 66 passes right through town; Kingman is the westernmost Arizona town on the mother road. Andy Devine, one of the early stars of western movies, is from Kingman. To celebrate this celluloid hero, the portion of Route 66 that goes through the center of town is known as Andy Devine Avenue.

Kingman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today Kingman has a real road trip feel and celebrates its motoring and railroad heritage. The multi-purpose Powerhouse Visitor Center is in an old converted power station. You’ll also find the Arizona Route 66 Museum and the Arizona Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum there.

Across the street in Locomotive Park train geeks will love the ogling historic old steam engine #3579. And there is no shortage of Route 66 photo-ops: the logo is displayed all over town on signs and painted on the street.

Patagonia State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Patagonia: Chill at a bird-lover’s paradise

Patagonia is a small town nestled high in the Santa Rita Mountains about an hour southeast of Tucson. Once a mining town, Patagonia today is focused on cattle ranching and recreation. The wine-growing region of Sonoita is just 12 miles north.

The Sonoita Creek flows through Patagonia year-round (a rarity in Arizona’s dry climate). As a result, the region is a popular flyway for many unique types of birds⏤and is a great spot for birdwatchers. Downtown Patagonia has a few funky art galleries, shops, and cafes. The town’s high altitude (4,500 feet) keeps it cool in the summer, and many visitors like to stay for a week, enjoying nearby State Park at Patagonia Lake or ropin’ and ridin’ at the historic Circle Z Ranch.

Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A visit to any of these beautiful historical towns in Arizona will let you take a peek into what the times of the Wild West were really like. Visit an abandoned ghost town, a National Historic Site, or a museum in any of these destinations to learn more about the people and life in early American history. You can also appreciate the scenic landscapes and rich biodiversity that Arizona has to offer, including the scenic backdrop of rugged cliffs and mountains at every turn.

Worth Pondering…

The trip across Arizona is just one oasis after another. You can just throw anything out and it will grow there.

—Will Rogers

10 Amazing Places to RV in December 2022

If you’re dreaming of where to travel to experience it all, here are my picks for the best places to RV in December

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.

—Proverbs 17:22, KJV Bible

This analogy from the Bible’s Book of Proverbs points out the link between emotional and physical well-being: Joy is a powerful emotion as beneficial for an ailing soul as medical treatments are for a sick or injured body. This passage from Proverbs 17:22 suggests that if we possess good cheer, our confidence, laughter, and trust are likely to radiate to those we encounter. Sharing kindness—be it through gifts, singing, rituals, or visiting loved ones—is a worthy and healthy practice this holiday season, and beyond.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in October and November. Also, check out my recommendations from December 2021 and January 2022.

The Barrio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Barrio Viejo

Barrio Viejo, meaning old neighborhood in Spanish, is an area near downtown Tucson that is an important, historical part of the community. This picturesque destination just south of the Tucson Convention Center lies between I-10 and Stone Avenue with Meyer and Main Avenues passing through the center.

The original Barrio neighborhood built between 1880 and 1920 was home to a diverse working class including Spanish, Mexican, Asian, and Hispanic. Using traditional Mexican Village architecture, houses were built of thick-walled adobe with a flat roof, wood beams, and ocotillo, or saguaro cactus ribs, coverings.

The Barrio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Begin your tour of Barrio Veijo at Five Points, the corner of Stone and 18th Streets. Over many decades the houses have been painted bold bright colors with doors/windows becoming works of art. Public buildings also have been treated with the same effect. The Barrio has become a major tourist attraction constantly drawing photographers, artists, and tour groups. In 1978, the Barrio was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Langley, British Columbia

Go for a festive stroll through this charming village in the Township of Langley to experience the best the holiday season has to offer. The picturesque village is often used as a backdrop for many Hallmark Christmas movies, so you’ll definitely feel like you’re a part of one. With twinkling lights brightening up the historic village, it’s like it was made specifically for the small screen.

Hoover Dam © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An Art Deco World Wonder

Hoover Dam, once known as Boulder Dam, is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River on the border between Arizona and Nevada. It was constructed between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression and was dedicated on September 30, 1935, by President Franklin Roosevelt. Its construction was the result of a massive effort involving thousands of workers and cost over one hundred lives. The dam was controversially named in honor of President Herbert Hoover.

Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since about 1900, the Black Canyon and nearby Boulder Canyon had been investigated for their potential to support a dam that would control floods, provide irrigation water, and produce hydroelectric power. In 1928, Congress authorized the project. The winning bid to build the dam was submitted by a consortium called Six Companies, Inc. which began construction on the dam in early 1931. Such a large concrete structure had never been built before and some of the techniques were unproven. The torrid summer weather and the lack of facilities near the site also presented difficulties. Nevertheless, Six Companies turned over the dam to the federal government on March 1, 1936, more than two years ahead of schedule.

Hoover Dam © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hoover Dam impounds Lake Mead and is located near Boulder City, Nevada, a municipality originally constructed for workers on the construction project about 25 miles southeast of Las Vegas. The dam’s generators provide power for public and private utilities in Nevada, Arizona, and California. Hoover Dam is a major tourist attraction with nearly a million people touring the dam each year. Heavily travelled U.S. 93 ran along the dam’s crest until October 2010 when the Hoover Dam Bypass opened. 

Goose Island State Park

Christmas in the Park

Experience Christmas on the Texas Gulf Coast at Goose Island State Park! See the park in lights, enjoy holiday activities, and CAMP FOR FREE when you decorate your campsite.

Visitors are invited to enjoy a FREE drive through the Live Oak forest to see campsites decorated in lights and join the park rangers at Santa’s Village at the CCC Recreation Hall for holiday crafts, games, hot chocolate around the campfire, and to drop off letters to Santa in the North Pole Mailbox.

Goose Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Campers who agree to decorate their campsite will CAMP FOR FREE! Reservations for participating sites are available only by contacting the park via email at GooseIslandSP@tpwd.texas.gov. Participating campers may begin arriving on December 16 and are eligible for waived fees on December 16 and 17. Community groups are encouraged to decorate a dark spot.

The Peachoid © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A Peach of a Water Tower

The Peachoid is a 135 feet tall water tower in Gaffney that resembles a peach. The water tower holds one million gallons of water and is located off Peachoid Road by Interstate 85 between exits 90 and 92 (near the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway). Usually referred to by locals as The Peach and by passing motorists as Mr. Peach or The Moon over Gaffney, the water tank is visible for several miles around these exits. An example of novelty architecture, the Peachoid is one of the most recognizable landmarks for travelers along I-85 between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia.

The Peachoid © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to official literature, the Peachoid boldly “sets the record straight about which state is the biggest peach producer in the South. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT Georgia.” Without a doubt, the best-known, most photographed water tank in America. It is painted to match the kind of peaches grown in the area using 20 colors and 50 gallons of paint.

San Antonio River Walk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Heart and Soul of San Antonio

The San Antonio River Walk, or Paseo del Rio, is a public park, open 365 days a year. It is a network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River one story beneath approximately 15 miles of downtown San Antonio. Explore by foot along the river’s walking path or jump aboard a river barge for a ride and guided tour. Lined by bars, shops, and restaurants the River Walk is an important part of the city’s urban fabric and a tourist attraction in its own right.

San Antonio River Walk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The River Walk winds and loops under bridges as two parallel sidewalks, lined with restaurants, shops, hotels, and more. It connects the major tourist draws from the Alamo to Rivercenter Mall, Arneson River Theatre and La Villita, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and the Pearl Brewery.

San Antonio Missions National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Or, shop local favorites along the river’s Museum Reach at the historic Pearl. While at Pearl, dine and drink al fresco at The Food Hall at Bottling Department. Further south, immerse yourself in history at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park along the Mission Reach.

Bernheim Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Holiday Fun and Festivities at Bernheim

At 15,625 acres, Bernheim boasts the largest protected natural area in Kentucky. Bernheim contains a 600-acre arboretum with over 8,000 unique varieties of trees.

With the holidays just around the corner, the Bernheim calendar is full of events to celebrate with nature this December. Except for Christmas Day, Bernheim is open the entire month with activities for every age.

Bernheim Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bernheim’s Holiday Open House takes place on Saturday, December 4 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Visitor Center. Enjoy a festive day shopping in the forest. Browse the selection of gifts, locally-made crafts, Kentucky Proud and Giants merchandise, and other unique gifts for the nature lover in your life. Get in the holiday spirit with hot mulled cider and refreshments, hourly door prize drawings, holiday specials, and a 30 percent discount for Bernheim members.

Bernheim Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gnomes are known the world over. Legend has it they travel and live in the forest freely, seldom seen by humans. Add some seasonal magic to your home this season by joining the Bernheim staff at one of two Forest Gnome Workshops to create this mythical forest character on Saturday, December 4 from 9:30 to 11 a.m., or from 1 to 2:30 p.m. while enjoying some hot cider, treats, and hot chocolate. Make this a family activity and enjoy building your gnome together. Children 13 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heaven on Earth

When it comes to standing in awe of nature’s magnificence, it’s hard to beat the Grand Circle Tour—especially the northern arc that carves across southern Utah and encompasses Zion National Park at the western edge and Arches National Park to the east. Of them all, it is Zion that offers outdoor enthusiasts the most varied, seemingly otherworldly terrain. At just under 230 square miles, Zion is relatively small by national park standards, and the park’s most memorable features are found in easily accessible Zion Canyon.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion was carved out of the Markagunt Plateau by the Virgin River which carved down a half-mile into the sandstone as it rushed to meet up with the Colorado River exposing rock layers from the middle periods of the earth’s geological history. 

The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is accessible by shuttle bus only from March 15 to October 25 and on weekends in November. Take time to drive the beautiful Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. This 10-mile length of scenic highway sports a series of switchbacks and the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel en route to Checkerboard Mesa and the park’s eastern entrance.

Besh Ba Gowah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Besh Ba Gowah Festival of Lights

The City of Globe, Arizona’s Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum presents the 34th Annual Festival of Lights celebration on Saturday, December 3, from 5 to 9 p.m. The festival delights visitors with a beautiful scene, a festive combination of the Southwest holiday tradition of the luminaria lighting combined with the artistry of American Indian cultural presentations.

Besh Ba Gowah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This year’s festival will feature 4,000 real candle luminarias illuminating the archaeological park’s partly reconstructed 800-year-old Salado culture ruins. Guests are encouraged to walk among the luminarias and experience the magic of the season. The warm glow of the luminarias creates a dramatic backdrop for cultural presentations by the internationally renowned Yellow Bird Productions.

Yellow Bird is a family dance group under the direction of Ken Duncan, a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe. The group specializes in cultural presentations that celebrate the unique spirit of American Indians. Presentations will run periodically throughout the night until the festival concludes at 9 p.m.

Besh Ba Gowah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Besh Ba Gowah Museum will be open to visitors for the duration of the event and guests are welcome to view the exhibits and browse the unique items available in the gift store.

The event will also have food trucks offering a variety of delicious treats and local specialty merchandise vendors.

Admission to the event has always been free although non-perishable food donations are encouraged in support of the Gila Community Food Bank.

Globe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since parking for the event fills up fast a free shuttle service is available. The shuttle will run every 15 minutes from 4 p.m. until the last call at 9 p.m. Shuttle parking is located at Globe High School, 437 S. High Street.

Make it a fun-filled weekend by also attending Historic Downtown Globe’s First Friday, December 2. Globe’s First Fridays, from 3 to 7 p.m., have become a hugely popular monthly event that showcases local businesses, restaurants, artists, musicians, makers, bakers and more!

La Grande © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Schmeckenfest 2022

Schmeckenfest is a wassail tasting and Christmas extravaganza in La Grande, Texas. Celebrate 16 years of Schmeckenfest on Thursday, December 1 from 5-8 p.m. A true community event, it also attracts visitors to the Square to sample many different types of wassail (hot cider) made by various business owners and community leaders in which participants hope to win the coveted honor of being named Schmeckenmeister.

La Grande © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This small-town Christmas festival also includes music, delicious treats sold by local nonprofit organizations, a Christmas parade, the lighting of the County Christmas tree on the Courthouse lawn, children’s activities, and a visit from Santa. There are numerous Christmas card-worthy photo opportunities around the Square as well as pictures with Santa.

Worth Pondering…

Always maintain a kind of summer, even in the middle of winter.

—Henry David Thoreau

Five Fall Road Trips in Arizona

Get on the road again with five sojourns perfect for your Arizona fall season

Despite what it seems like by the time September rolls around, summer is not endless. It is winding down. So it’s time to start planning your quest to see some fall colors.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon North Rim Drive: Highway 89 from Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Lodge

Driving Distance: 208 miles from Flagstaff

Turn-by-Turn Directions: Head north from Flagstaff on US-89 to Bitter Springs. Here, turn left onto US-89A. Follow this north to SR-67. Turn left and drive south on SR-67 to the lodge. 

There’s nothing like tracing the Grand Canyon’s edge with the Colorado River raging below. If that isn’t enough to inspire a drive on Highway 89, I’ll also tempt you with Marble Canyon, Vermilion Cliffs, and the aspen golds of the North Rim.

Navajo Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan this trip for early fall, since the Grand Canyon’s North Rim closes for the season on October 15. Launching from Flagstaff, you emerge from the pine forest to a desolate expanse of land with sightlines for miles. The road moves over rounded slopes while reddish sandstone cliffs tower on either side. At Bitter Springs, veer left on Highway 89A to Marble Canyon which offers a good stopping point for breathtaking photo-ops and sustenance. First up, pics: Stand on the Navajo Bridge, a historic span over the Colorado River. Then, food: Marble Canyon Lodge serves hearty lunch and dinner with outdoor seating to boot. 

Marble Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Marble Canyon marks the beginning of the Grand Canyon and nearby is a campground and popular put-in for river runners and Horseshoe Bend paddlers. Push on southwest, nestling close to the bewildering spectrum of reds, yellows, and oranges of Vermilion Cliffs rising from Paria Plateau. 

You’ll spot junipers and pines the closer you inch to Kaibab National Forest but once you reach the North Rim the scenery explodes in leafy canopies of firs, spruces, tall pines, and aspens.

Leaving Tucson © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Southern Arizona Drive: Highway 83 from Tucson to Bisbee by way of Sonoita and Sierra Vista

Driving Distance: 109 miles from the starting point in Tucson

Turn-by-Turn Directions: Follow I-10 east to SR-83. Drive south on SR-83 to SR-82. Take this east to SR-90. Head south on SR-90 to Sierra Vista and continue southeast on SR-90 to SR-80. Follow this east to Bisbee. 

The southern half of the state can’t compete with Flagstaff’s autumnal glow. And yet… This south-of-Tucson trip is fraught with scenic vistas. 

On the road to Sonoita © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From Tucson, you’re on I-10 for only a short stretch before you get to ease off the accelerator and enjoy the leisure of Highway 83. The road weaves through the Santa Rita Foothills where desert flora fades into one of the finest grassland valleys of the Southwest—45,000 acres to be exact. Las Cienegas National Conservation Area preserves this landscape of cottonwood trees, spiny mesquite, and the rare marshes of a perennial creek. Stop and stretch your legs before the quick drive to Sonoita. 

Sonoita and nearby Elgin boast the largest concentration of wineries and vineyards in Arizona and the Santa Rita, Whetstone, and Huachuca mountain ranges that envelop grasslands and vine-covered hills. Take Highway 82 east to explore the tasting rooms; this will also link to SR-90, your route to Sierra Vista.

Lesser Goldfinch at San Pedro House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Huachuca Mountains punctuate the expansive views in Sierra Vista. Pine trees crowd the peaks and thick-leafed oaks in crimson and orange blanket the lower elevations. And all around, the sycamore and maple trees of Ramsey Canyon and the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area bloom in full fall color. 

Bisbee and the Mule Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Finally, arrive in Bisbee in style. By style, I mean Mule Pass Tunnel, a dramatic entrance through the Mule Mountains that leads travelers into the stair-clinging slopes of Bisbee.

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apache Trail Bypass: Highways 60 and 188 from Apache Junction to Roosevelt Lake

Driving Distance: 80 miles from Apache Junction

Turn-by-Turn Directions: From Apache Junction, drive east on US-60 to SR-188. Turn left and follow SR-188 north to Roosevelt Lake. 

Superstition Mountains along Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As scenic drives go, the 40-mile Apache Trail (Highway 88) winds through the Southwest’s most stunning scenery. It’s a rugged ribbon of hairpin turns and stark drop-offs that meanders past three lakes and carves through canyons and over the Superstition Mountains before concluding at Roosevelt Dam. 

Highway 88 runs northeast from Apache Junction passing through Tortilla Flat along the way to Roosevelt Lake. While you can still access the road to Tortilla Flat, the portion north of the town is temporarily closed. 

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travel Advisory: In 2019, the Woodbury Fire burned several areas on the Apache Trail, and a 7-mile section of the road from Fish Creek Hill Overlook (milepost 222) to Apache Lake Marina (Milepost 229) remains closed. 

For a still-scenic alternative, leave Apache Junction via Highway 60. The Superstition Mountains with their jagged peaks are to the north. The “Supes” backcountry area delineates the transition from the Southern Sonora Desert to the Central Mountains. Take in the sight of thousands of saguaros set against colorful rock layers as you approach Miami. 

Along Highway 60 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here, you have two options: Continue on Highway 188 or hang in town to peruse the shops on Main Street, grab a bite to eat (crispy fried chicken at Dick’s), or visit the impressive Bullion Plaza Cultural Center & Museum. 

Then it’s north on 188. Unlike the original alignment of the Apache Trail, here the bends are gentle and the curves wide. No white-knuckling the steering wheel. Roosevelt Lake’s serene blue sparkle comes into view.

Along Highway 177 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Old Pueblo Back Way: Highway 177 from Phoenix to Tucson through Winkelman and Oracle

Driving Distance: 163 miles from Downtown Phoenix

Turn-by-Turn Directions: Drive east on US-60 out of Phoenix. Turn right and head south on SR-177. In Winkelman, pick up SR-77 and follow it south to Tucson. 

Globe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travel east on US-60 to Superior and Globe. Visit Besh-Ba-Gowah Museum, search out a rare find at the Pickle Barrel Trading Post, or munch on quiche at the Copper Hen. Follow SR-77 past the Pinal Mountain-shrouded ghost town of Christmas. You’ll want to spend time in Winkelman delighting in the fall glory of Aravaipa Canyon.

Besh-Ba-Gowah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Continue south to see the Galiuro Mountains rise from the golden grasslands. Thickets of oak, Ponderosa pines, maple trees, and Douglas fir cover the slopes, the tallest of which tops at 7,671 feet. Stop for a quick visit to the mining camps of Mammoth and Copper Creek.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Next up: Oracle, where the hardwood forests of the Santa Catalina Mountains meet the desert. Oracle is your destination; good news because after sundown you’re rewarded with the celestial sights of the city’s International Dark Sky. 

In the morning, venture up to Oracle State Park, then south again on Highway 77 past Oracle Junction to Catalina State Park on the northwestern edge of Tucson.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palm Springs & Mad Max Cities: I-10 to Palm Springs and home through Joshua Tree National Park

Driving Distance: 653 miles round trip from Downtown Phoenix

Turn-by-Turn Directions: From the I-10, go south on CA-78 to CA-115. Turn right. Drive north on CA-115 to Wiest Road. Turn right and head north on Wiest. At Noffsinger Road, turn right, then make a quick left on Highland Canal Road. When you reach Beal Road, turn right and follow it to Salvation Mountain.

 “Let’s plan a fall colors drives on Interstate 10!” Said nobody, ever! But hear me out. This trip features all the hallmarks of an autumn getaway: quieting the noise, slowing the pace, and discovering new places.

Colorado River near Ehrenburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heading west on I-10, saguaro sightings become fewer and sand gathers in windswept piles. After crossing the Colorado River (you’re in California now), drive south on Highway 78. But first, fuel up in Ehrenburg, Arizona, and avoid the high cost of gas in the Golden State. This is the route to the Salton Sea through the hottest, driest corner of the Sonoran Desert

Salton Sea © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Salton Sea sounds like a magical place ruled by a Greek god. In reality, it’s more mythological than magical. Accidentally created thanks to an irrigation “oops” in the 1900s, the Salton Sea once reigned as a 1950s retreat. Today, over-salinity has nearly dried it up. What’s left: brackish, murky water, a shore lined with decomposing bird and fish bones, and an abandoned beach town or two. Well, almost abandoned. 

Salton Sea © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bohemians and wanderers have made their way here to set up desert communes of makeshift homes and life-size art. One striking example is Salvation Mountain, an art installation of discarded tires, old windows, rusted auto parts, and bright paint spelling out spiritual messages. The work is so strangely beautiful that it boasts a stamp of approval from the Folk Art Society of America and has been covered in National Geographic.

Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From Salvation Mountain, drive north on Highway 111 to join I-10 to the Coachella Valley cities of Indio, Palm Desert, and Palm Springs. Immerse yourself in the fall foliage of the San Jacinto Mountains which loom over the valley at nearly 9,000 feet. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway ferries you from the foothills to the peaks and hiking trails letting you wander among the vibrant leafy color.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the trip home, opt for the roundabout drive through Joshua Tree National Park. Start at the West Entrance, then follow a paved, two-lane road scattered with scenic pullouts and dotted not with maples and oaks, but with yucca, ocotillo, “jumping” cholla cactus, and its namesake Joshua trees.

Worth Pondering…

Alone in the open desert, I have made up songs of wild, poignant rejoicing and transcendent melancholy. The world has seemed more beautiful to me than ever before.

I have loved the red rocks, the twisted trees, and sand blowing in the wind, the slow, sunny clouds crossing the sky, the shafts of moonlight on my bed at night. I have seemed to be at one with the world.

—Everett Ruess

Exploring a Remarkable Pueblo: Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park

One mile south of Globe stands the ruins of the ancient Salado people who occupied the site nearly 800 years ago

This ancient village is known today as Besh Ba Gowah. The term was originally given by the Apaches to the early settlement of Globe. Roughly translated, the term means “Place of Metal.”

Besh Ba Gowan Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum offers visitors an opportunity to explore the ruins of this relatively advanced culture, a museum which houses a large collection of Salado pottery and artifacts, botanical gardens, and a gift shop. The adjacent Ethno-Botanical Garden illustrates native Arizona plants that were used in their daily lives.

Besh Ba Gowan Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Archaeologists consider Besh-Ba-Gowah a ceremonial, redistribution, and food storage complex. Salado Culture is identified as the cultural period from 1150 to 1450 in the Tonto Basin. Located at the confluence of Pinal Creek and Ice House Canyon Wash, Besh-Ba-Gowah Pueblo has one of the largest single site archaeological collections in the southwest and is one of the most significant finds of Southwest archaeology. Visitors walk through a 700-year-old Salado Culture pueblo, climb ladders to second story rooms, and view the typical furnishings of the era.

Besh Ba Gowan Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Besh-Ba-Gowah had about 400 rooms of these about 250 were ground floor rooms. Precise numbers are impossible due to modern destruction of sections. Entrance to the pueblo was via a long narrow ground level corridor covered by the second level. The corridor opened onto the main plaza. This may have had a defensive purpose.

The present day interpretive trail uses plaques to inform the visitor. It begins with the ancient entrance way to the main plaza which measures 40 x 88 feet. About 150 elaborate burials were placed under the plaza. Hereditary high status is suspected from burial evidence in the plaza.

Besh Ba Gowan Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The ruins had very few doors. Room access was by roof hatchways with ladders. Several reconstructed rooms with prehistoric contents are featured.

Cross-sections illustrate the roof construction of logs covered with layers of reeds, mats, and a thick coat of mud. The trail leads past the largest room in the pueblo, the so-called ceremonial room. A sipapu filled with turquoise dust and covered with a large quartz crystal was found in the room. The room contains built-in benches at various levels, four large roof support posts, and an altar on the east wall. Another unique feature of the pueblo is a small platform mound.

Besh Ba Gowan Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Situated between a great number of Southwestern cultures, the Salado traded actively with neighbors both near and far. Seashells discovered in the village show that the Salado traded with people from as far as Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.

Inside the museum two models of the ruins are presented. One shows the present condition. The other is a hypothetical reconstruction of the pueblo in 1325 A.D. It shows 20 courtyards and two three-story sections. One of the displays illustrates the archaeologist’s tool kit. Stone items on display include manos and metates, delicate carved stone palettes, stone axes and hoes, obsidian points, turquoise beads, local minerals, and a bow drill for bead making. Fabric artifacts include woven baskets and mats, sandals woven from yucca leaves, and fine woven cloth.

Besh Ba Gowan Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One wall of the museum is covered with shelves of ancient pottery two pieces deep. A wide and diverse range of pottery includes red and white ware and plain and decorated pots. Besh-Ba-Gowah has a high percentage of decorated ware.

The Salado crafters of these bowls painted them with a white paint and a black paint made from boiled plant residue, although they sometimes used red in the late-Tonto style. The Pinto polychrome, emerging around 1275, displayed simple geometric patterns, while the Gila and Tonto polychromes that developed later had more elaborate designs and embellishments. Gila polychromes are the most widely spread pottery style in the Southwest, ranging from Casas Grandes in Mexico to the Mimbres Valley in New Mexico, with the highest concentration of the pottery found in the Tonto Basin.

Besh Ba Gowan Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The museum includes an excellent bookstore and gift shop and a small theater. Videos inform visitors about the ancient cultures and the ruins. An excellent assortment of informative books and scientific journals can be accessed by visitors.

Worth Pondering…

History, although sometimes made up of the few acts of the great, is more often shaped by the many acts of the small.

—Mark Yost

Exploring Globe-Miami

The community of Globe-Miami is rich in copper, culture, and a pleasant climate

In the middle of the 32,000 acres that are the Salt River Canyon Wilderness, U.S. Route 60 is a narrow ribbon buckling through the harsh terrain.

Salt River Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

By starting in Apache Junction you’ll traverse the 1,200-foot-long Queen Creek Tunnel cutting through the mountain at a 6 percent upward grade. Now you’ll climb 4,000 feet via tight bends, S-curves, and the three consecutive switchbacks plunging into the canyon. The highway twists through the Tonto National Forest with views of the Superstition Mountains.

Salt River Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The community of Globe-Miami is rich in copper, culture, and a pleasant climate. Globe was named from the legend of a 50-pound “globe” shaped silver nugget. Numerous antique shops and art galleries are situated in historic downtown Globe. Located in the foothills of the Pinal Mountains at an elevation of 3,500 feet, Globe-Miami enjoys cooler summers than its metropolitan neighbors while still having sunny, pleasant winters.

Globe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

There is much to see and experience, as the area’s mining history, Old West traditions, and Native American culture offer a wide-ranging Southwestern experience. The historic downtowns, copper mining, the neighboring San Carlos Apache Reservation, and abundant outdoor recreation throughout the Tonto National Forest combine to make Globe-Miami much more than the sleepy community many expect to find. Mining still holds a significant role in the local economy, along with tourism.

Globe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Cobre Valley Center for the Arts is located in the landmark former Gila County Courthouse of 1906 at the heart of Globe’s historic downtown district. Since 1984, this non-profit entity has been restoring and rejuvenating this architectural treasure, while presenting regional artists, community theater, and dance and music academies. The Center is located at the corner of Broad and Oak Streets.

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

One mile south of Globe stands the ruins of the ancient Salado people who occupied the site nearly 800 years ago. This ancient village is known today as Besh Ba Gowah. The term was originally given by the Apaches to the early settlement of Globe. Roughly translated, the term means “Place of Metal.” 

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum offers visitors a chance to explore the ruins of this relatively advanced culture, a museum which houses a large collection of Salado pottery and artifacts, botanical gardens, and a gift shop. The adjacent Ethno-Botanical Garden illustrates native Arizona plants that were used in their daily lives.

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Located at the confluence of Pinal Creek and Ice House Canyon Wash, Besh-Ba-Gowah Pueblo has one of the largest single site archaeological collections in the southwest and is one of the most significant finds of Southwest archaeology.

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Archaeologists consider Besh-Ba-Gowah a ceremonial, redistribution, and food storage complex. Salado Culture is identified as the cultural period from 1150 to 1450 in the Tonto Basin.

Visitors walk through a 700-year-old Salado Culture pueblo, climb ladders to second story rooms, and view the typical furnishings of the era.

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Besh-Ba-Gowah had about 400 rooms, of these about 250 were ground floor rooms. Entrance to the pueblo was via a long narrow ground level corridor covered by the second level. The corridor opened onto the main plaza. This may have had a defensive purpose.

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The present day interpretive trail uses plaques to inform the visitor. It begins with the ancient entrance way to the main plaza. The main plaza measures 40 x 88 feet. About 150 elaborate burials were placed under the plaza. Hereditary high status is suspected from burial evidence in the plaza. The ruins had very few doors. Room access was by roof hatchways with ladders. Several reconstructed rooms with prehistoric contents are featured.

Peridot Mesa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The San Carlos Apache Reservation is located 12 miles east of Globe-Miami on U.S. Highway 70. Throughout this beautiful land you will find rich Apache culture, hunting and fishing opportunities, as well as other recreational delights. A tribal land permit is required for activities on tribal lands.

Wildflowers in the spring on Peridot Mesa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Peridot Mesa, about 20 minutes east of Globe, is one of Arizona’s hot spots for wildflower viewing and one of the very first places in the state to kick off the spring wildflower season.

Spring Wildflowers on Peridot Mesa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

To my mind these live oak-dotted hills fat with side oats grama, these pine-clad mesas spangled with flowers, these lazy trout streams burbling along under great sycamores and cottonwoods, come near to being the cream of creation.

—Aldo Leopold, 1937