In Search of Cliff Dwellings in Turkey Creek Canyonby Jim Gressinger on Apr. 13, 2013, under Camping, Day/Weekend Adventures, Environment and Ecology, Hiking, Native American Culture, Scenic Back Roads, Southern Arizona Birding, Southern Arizona Wildlife, Things To Do With The Kidz
In March I shared with you our adventure to the West Entrance of Aravaipa Canyon. From Tucson, it took us about 2 hours to get there, the last several miles on a very windy but decent dirt road. The following week we drove to the East Entrance. That adventure took us about 3 hour just to get to the entrance and then another 3 hours of hiking, picnicking & exploring before heading back home in Tucson. But we were on a mission to find the cliff dwelling in Turkey Creek Canyon, an offshoot of Aravaipa Canyon.
The distance from the West Entrance to the East Entrance of Aravaipa Canyon is about 10 miles through the main canyon. With the required permit from the BLM you can hike in the Canyon. However, in the Canyon there are no hiking trails or campsites. About 9,000 acres within Aravaipa Canyon are owned by the Nature Conservancy and are jointly managed with the BLM that also manages their 40,000 acres of surrounding near-prestine Wilderness Area.
In the Canyon hikers can find several species of desert fish, and some 200 species of birds depending on the season. Here too are big horn sheep, coati, & mountain lions. Not more than 30 yards from where we were standing we saw 2 black bear cubs walking in the stream. Quickly realizing that were there are bear cubs there surely will be a momma bear nearby, we high-tailed it to the safety of our car.Unfortunately, our cameras were in the car and by the time we were ready to take photos of the furry little critters, they had disappeared into the woods.
Arivaipa Creek flows year ’round, an oddity for Southern Arizona. Aravaipa Creek is a tributary of the San Pedro River.
Most of the hiking through the Canyon takes place in the Creek itself, so if you go, plan to get wet up to your knees. The elevation of the Canyon floor and Aravaipa Creek is about 3,000′. But some of the surrounding cliffs are above 6,000′. Thus, the Canyon is cooler than Tucson. We were there in March so the trees, mainly willow, sycamore, alder, & cottonwood, had yet to sprout their spring leaves.
In order to preserve this wilderness, both the BLM and the Nature Conservancy have restrictions on almost everything: NO FISHING, NO OFF-ROAD DRIVING, NO FIREARMS, NO DOGS, etc., etc. The BLM only issues 50 permits per day, which are about $5 per person.
High-clearance vehicles are recommended. Our front-wheel drive Ford Edge did just fine, even as we crossed the Creek at least 7 times.
At the East end two camping areas are available. Four-Mile Canyon Campground, located about one mile southwest of the Klondyke Store has ten units with picnic tables, grills and a flush toilet. Four-Mile Canyon has a fee of $5.00 per night. The second area is Turkey Creek, a primitive camping area with no facilities. Turkey Creek is located near the east wilderness entrance and has no fee. Primitive camping in the Wilderness Area is OK if you have a permit.
Points of Interest
The beauty of the Canyon is reason enough to go. However, our goal on this trip to the East Entrance was to find the cliff dwelling in Turkey Creek Canyon. Prehistoric people abandoned the area about 1450 A.D. The cliff dwelling is located 1.4 miles south of the east wilderness entrance and is one of the most intact structures of its kind in southeastern Arizona. It was probably occupied for a few months each year by prehistoric farmers around 1300 A.D. A trail leads visitors up to the structure. Please help protect and preserve these ancient ruins. If you are going to explore this area, best to get a topo map. I usually get ours at the Arizona Experience Store on Congress Street. For exploring Arizona, this is a major resource and we highly recommend it for books, gifts, and free, information-packed brochures.
Call (928) 828-3443 or e-mail email@example.com
To get permits online, click HERE.
To view our recommendations for many other adventures around Southern Arizona, go to http://southernarizonaguide.com > Main Menu > Adventures.