Across Arizona from a Mission to a Bridge
We didn't move far from the Tombstone area before finding more great history in the Grand Canyon State.
Just south of Tucson, a National Historic Landmark, San Xavier Mission was founded as a Spanish Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit Explorer, in 1692. The mission was established in the center of a centuries-old Indian settlement of the Sobaipuri O’odham Indians located along the banks of the Santa Cruz River.
San Xavier del bacSan Xavier del bac
During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Catholic missions were an integral part of Spanish colonization. Missions, usually run by Jesuit or Franciscan friars, created European settlements that allowed colonization to expand the boundaries of Spanish culture and influence. Construction on the mission that still stands began in 1783 under the residency of Father Juan Bautista Velderrain. It wasn't completed until 1797.
The beautiful Spanish mission was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1960. The church continues to serve the residents of the San Xavier Reservation. The church is open to visitors daily, except during special services, and the public is welcome to join the San Xavier community for regular masses.
Fort Lowell & The Indian Wars
Fort Lowell National Historic Place is part of Fort Lowell Park on the outskirts of Tucson. A military post in Tucson was initially established by the U.S. Army in 1856. This post however wasn't permanent, and the Confederate Army took it over for a brief time in 1862 when they took control of Tucson. After the war, the US Military re-established the post and named it Camp Lowell, in honor of General Charles R. Lowell who was killed in the Civil War.
The Camp was moved six miles northeast of town in 1873 where it sat at the confluence of the Pantano and Tanque Verdes washes, becoming the Rillito River. The reservation, selected for its abundant water, grass, and wood, extended over 10 miles east and was about 80 square miles.
The Chief Trumpeter, Fort Lowell National Historic Place, Tucson. The Chief Trumpeter - Honoring the enlisted men who served in the Southwest during the Apache Indian Wars in the 1870s and 1880s. At Fort Lowell (1873-1891) National Historic Place.
Today, close to the entry of the Park, visitors are greeted by "The Chief Trumpeter" - Honoring the enlisted men who served in the Southwest during the Apache Indian Wars in the 1870s and 1880s. The camp was renamed Fort Lowell in 1879, and over its lifetime until 1891, housed over 200 men and 13 officers. The military reservation went back to the public domain in 1894, opening up the area to homesteaders. Today, Fort Lowell Park preserves some of the remaining ruins, including the old Hospital, and features a Museum (check ahead for hours due to the Pandemic, it was not open during our visit). The Park and Museum, part of the Arizona Historical Society, are located at 2900 N. Craycroft Rd in Tucson.
Across the road, Fort Lowell National Historic District, a primarily residential area, still has some of the old Fort Ruins, but most appeared behind fences, like this photo of the old Quartermasters Depot. See more about the Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood via their website here.
We found this church in the Historic District. The San Pedro Chapel sits on a hillside overlooking the Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood. Built by residents in 1932, the Chapel no longer has regular services, but the beautiful building is the site of many weddings and other events, such as neighborhood gatherings, historic lectures, art exhibits, parties, and memorials. (See their website here).
We had a good time social distancing in Tucson, driving around and taking in the downtown area.
Hugo O'Conor, the Spanish military Governor of Northern Mexico, founded the city in 1775, authorizing the construction of the Presidio San Agustín del Tucsón, which was the founding structure of what would become Tucson.
Although Tucson flourished under Spanish rule, it wouldn't be until American Possession of the territory before the population gained more than around 500. When Mexico declared independence from Spain in 1821, the Spanish garrison continued as the Aristocracy supported Mexico's independence and continued to rule the northern part of the Mexican State of Sonora.
Presidio San Augustin Del Tucson Mural_fbPresidio San Augustin Del Tucson
Tucson came under United States Control with the Gadsden Purchase of 1853, although the Mexican garrison at the Presidio didn't leave until 1856. Then a part of New Mexico Territory, the US Army, just like their predecessors, had to deal with attacks from Apache Warriors. But as the area was already known to contain sought-after minerals, mining camps and towns sprang up all around Tucscon and continued to be the primary economy until the early 1900s. Today, Tucson is the second-largest city of Arizona, sporting a metro population of almost One Million.
Presidio San Augustin Del TucsonPresidio San Augustin Del Tucson
By 1910, only a few ruins of the original Presidio remained, however, work to uncover the Northeastern sections of the Presidio walls in the early 2000s led to their recreation and establishment of a park and museum. Today visitors can tour this section of the recreated Presidio and learn about its long history at the Presidio San Agustín del Tucson Museum, 196 N. Court Ave in downtown Tucson.
For more information about the museum, visit their website here.
Barrio Viejo Neighborhood, Tucson, ArizonaBarrio Viejo Neighborhood, Tucson, Arizona
Nearby, Tucson's Old Neighborhood, or Barrio Viejo, still features some of the 19th-century homes and businesses, although most were bulldozed in the 1960s to make way for a Convention Center. We saw many taking walking tours of the neighborhood. For more information about Barrio Viejo see the Southern Arizona Guide article here.
On our way out of Tucson, we decided it was time for some more "ghost town" exploration. We found it just outside of Florence.
Florence, the county seat of Pinal County, is historic in itself, with 25 buildings on the National Historic Register. However, if you travel a couple of miles out of town, things didn't fare well for another small town.
Adamsville was one of the first two towns in this area, founded by Fred Adams in 1866. When a post office was established in 1871, a political enemy of Adams named the town Sanford, however local residents continued to use Adamsville until 1876 when the post office was shut down.
Adamsville Ghost Town, outside of Florence, ArizonaAdamsville Ghost Town, outside of Florence, Arizona
A marker for Adamsville reads "In the 1870s, a flour mill and a few stores formed the hub of life in Adamsville, where shootings and knifings were commonplace, and life was one of the cheapest commodities. Most of the adobe houses have been washed away by the flooding Gila River."
It became a ghost town in the early 1920s and today only a couple of structures remain of this once-thriving farming community. You can find Adamsville 2 miles west of Florence on Adamsville road. Don't blink or you'll miss it.
Family, Friends, and Downtime in the Phoenix Area
That's a Palm Tree in the driveway of our RV resort in Apache Junction. And yes, those are Parakeets. Apparently, a couple of large bird releases in the 1980s, one a monsoon stricken aviary in Apache Junction, resulted in the Phoenix Area becoming home to colonies of the tropical birds. Authorities say this region of Arizona, with its many Palm Trees, closely resembles their native habitat.
We decided to take our own website's advice in our article "Working While you RV", which says to make sure you set time aside for your life and vacation. So we did, spending time with some family that lives nearby, and visiting some neighbors from back home who now live here half of the year. Although there are still a lot of people who flock to the Phoenix area during the Winter, this year we heard figures of up to 600,000 missing due to the Pandemic and Canadian regulations making it hard to come to the U.S.
There is a lot to see and do here in this area, but we did it already in 2015 on our journey home from our Death Valley adventure.
Pushing East toward a bridge...
That's the shoreline of the Colorado River, and California on the other side. We landed at a wonderful RV Park in Buckskin Mountain State Park, between Parker and Lake Havasu City.
Buckskin Mountain State Park RV CampgroundBuckskin Mountain State Park RV Campground
This is a popular area for hikers, campers, and more, and we thoroughly enjoyed the park's view of the river and mountains surrounding it. If in the area, we recommend visiting Buckskin Mountain State Park. Here's a link to their website.
Flag over Buckskin Mountain State ParkFlag over Buckskin Mountain State Park
One thing we noticed was the patriotic touch to mountain tops, with the Flag flying high on several of them around the State Park.
Parker DamParker Dam
Just down the road, we drove over Parker Dam, the deepest Dam in the World. The dam, built in the 1930s, is 320 feet high with 235 feet of that below the river bed down to the bedrock foundation. The dam, straddling the state line, forms the reservoir for Lake Havasu. Read about the interesting history of the dam, and the fight over the Colorado River here in this National Park Service Article.
This brings us to Lake Havasu and Lake Havasu City. The city itself doesn't have a lot of history. It was founded as a planned community in the 1960s primarily for recreation and retirement. However, its claim to fame comes from across the Atlantic.
The "Old" London Bridge of nursery rhyme fame was a stone bridge built by Peter of Colechurch, an architect and priest, between 1176 and 1209. By the end of the 18th century, the bridge needed to be replaced. It had fallen into severe disrepair and was blocking river traffic. Designed in 1799 by Scottish engineer John Rennie, the "New" London Bridge was completed in 1831. However, motor traffic in the early 20th century took its toll on the stone bridge, sinking it further into the River Thames.
In 1967, the city of London, England decided to rid themselves of the problem, and sell the bridge. Lake Havasu City founder Robert P. McCulloch Sr took advantage of the opportunity to attract visitors and residents to his new town and bought the historic bridge for $2.4 Million in 1968. The purchase included ornate lampposts made from the melted-down cannons captured by the British from Napoleon's army, after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
The bridge was dismantled brick by brick, each numbered and brought to the United States. It was then reconstructed on dry land. After completion, the land under the bridge was dredged, creating Bridgewater Channel and "The Island" across the bridge. McCulloch also created "English Village", an open-air mall beside the bridge.
On October 10, 1971, the completed bridge was formally dedicated in a ceremony attended by over 50,000 American and British spectators and dignitaries. During our visit, we stopped at the English Village for some great grub (takeout for us) at Burgers by the Bridge. We highly recommend the onion rings and the Ortega Burger.
Learn more about Lake Havasu via their website here.
Moon rises over the Colorado River, Buckskin Mountain State Park, Arizona looking into California. Moon rises over the Colorado River, Buckskin Mountain State Park, Arizona looking into California. Photo by Dave Alexander.
That's it for now. We're still working around data availability and our own desire to take this trip a little slower than most. Coming up, we pass through the Bullhead City and Laughlin area to Boulder City Nevada, home of Hoover Dam.
Cya on the road!
We're traveling with "HearHere" a travel audio app for iPhone that shares the depth and diversity of stories - cultural, geographical, historical, and mythological - hidden along the roads of America.
Keywords: Arizona, Buckskin Mountain State Park, Fort, Lake Havasu City, London Bridge, Lowell, parakeets in apache junction, Parker Dam, Presidio San Agustín del Tucsón, San Xavier Mission, travel, Tucson
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