Pima County will open to the public in March one of the most historically and culturally significant ranches in Southern Arizona that it has worked to preserve and restore.
The Historic Hacienda de la Canoa, south of Green Valley, will be showcased at a dedication ceremony at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 2.
U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, who lived on the ranch as a young boy, will speak at the ceremony, which will include the dedication of a bronze plaque commemorating the ranch’s listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Docent-led tours will begin after the ceremony.
In 2001, Pima County purchased and began to restore the 4,800-acre ranch complex with voter-approved 1997 and 2004 bond funds. The Board of Supervisors voted to designate the property the Raúl M. Grijalva Canoa Ranch Conservation Park.
The park preserves a rich record of the prehistoric people, the Native Americans, Spaniards, Mexicans and Anglos who have occupied the area.
Evidence of prehistoric human habitation – near springs in the Santa Cruz River valley – dates back to 2500 B.C. The Hohokam were there from 600 to 1450 A.D., and the Tohono O’odham called it home beginning in the 1600s. Father Eusebio Francisco Kino and other Jesuit missionaries passed by the Canoa site at the turn of the 1700s on their way to what would become Mission San Xavier del Bac and the city of Tucson. When Juan Bautista de Anza, a lieutenant colonel in the Royal Spanish cavalry and commander of the Tubac Presidio, led a 240-person expedition to northern California in 1775, the group spent its first night at the paraje, or campsite, at La Canoa, which is Spanish for wooden drinking trough.
The ranch was first established in 1821 as the San Ignacio de la Canoa Land Grant deeded to Ignacio and Tomas Ortiz. But the full potential of the Hacienda de la Canoa was not realized until the Manning family’s ownership of the property from 1912 to the 1970s. Canoa became a showcase ranch and community worked by both Anglo and Mexican families. There were numerous breeds of cattle and horses, in addition to extensive farms and irrigation systems, many of which are still visible.
In the most recent phase of construction, Pima County restoration crews have reinforced the once-crumbling adobe buildings, using period-specific methods to create new adobe bricks and coat the walls with stucco and a gleaming layer of whitewash to protect them against the elements and time.
Grading to direct water away from the foundations of buildings and walls and raising the elevation of access roads will protect the site from rainwater and sheet flooding. Tons of debris have been removed and surrounding areas cleared for fire control. The water well has been rehabilitated with a new pump and water lines, increasing the availability of water on site. Historic landscapes have been reestablished, and gravel roads and walking paths have been repaired. Restoration work even includes an adaptive re-use of an existing garage to ADA restroom facilities.
Visitors to Historic Hacienda de la Canoa will be able to step back in time and catch a glimpse of what life was like on a traditional cattle ranch, a lifestyle that has evolved but continues to define the independent, diverse, distinctive culture of communities of the Southwest.
Free guided tours will be available to the public in March. Reservations are required. Call 877-6004 or email CanoaRanch@pima.gov.
Date: Saturday, March 2
Time: 11 a.m. (tours start after the ceremony)
Place: 5375 S. I-19 Frontage Road, Green Valley