Yet, up until the twentieth Century, the only mountains that really mattered in what was to become Phoenix were the Estrellas. For thousands of years, they have stood as a barrier, or rather, something to go around or avoid. They are not friendly, nor are they small. From south to north they run 22 plus miles of hard, dry rock, isolated from the Sonoran plains below. Even in the 21st Century, access to the Estrellas is difficult and visitors are few.
From space, the Estrellas are the most visible object in all of the Phoenix area. In fact, all other mountains are absolutely unrecognizable, just formless blurs lost in the plains and mountains of Arizona. Likewise, the cartography of the region is fascinating. Map makers had a very dificult time understanding the basic geography of the region.
The Indians called them Komate, a name lost in time. To Father Kino, over 300 years ago, they were San Jose de Cumar. They were the only mountains specifically mentioned in the Valley of the Sun. A few decades later, Garces and Manje come through and describe the bighorn sheet and monsters inhabiting the area. After becoming part of the US, A.B. Grey explores the region and records the use of the term 'Estrellas' for the first time, doubtless based on the name already in common use at the stageline station on the plain below, and passed to person to person by the tens of thousands of 49ers on their way to the California. As the pioneers gathered around the campfires at Maricopa Wells, they were told the next leg of the journey would be the worst of the trip - if they took the shorter road south of the Estrellas, instead of following the Gila River north around the bend and back south. This trip, known as the "Jornada de las Estrellas", was to be made, as the Spanish name implies, "under the stars" to avoid the heat of the 40 mile desert. As they camped in the plains below the Estrellas among the Pima and Maricopa villages, they heard terrible stories of Aztec kings and warriors, of bloody battles among the tribes, of monsters lurking in the night, of lost mines and buried treasures, and of course, of men, women and animals suffering and dying on the cruel trail they were about to traverse. The harsh geography and ancient legends are the essence of the Estrellas.
Now the Estrellas are endangered. Urban growth is lapping at the foothills of the Estrellas on the north end, and plants and animals are being severely affected by what we term as 'civilization'. The purpose of this site is to tell the story of the Estrellas and maybe, just maybe, to help preserve a part of Arizona -- and its habitat and treasures -- that is fast disappearing.
. I recommend you start here. This is Part 1 of 3 about a mountain range, a forgotten stagecoach stop and an old gold mine. This is basically were the Estrella legend begins, at least for the Spanish and Americans.
|MARICOPA WELLS and the BUTTERFIELD OVERLAND STAGE |
Part 2 . The story of Arizona's Lost Outpost. The Wells are gone now, leveled by time and vandals, yet for 30 years it was the only important place in the Valley. While the first settlers were planting crops just north of the Wells, in a place they were thinking of calling "Pumpkinville", Maricopa Wells had it all: store, blacksmith, saloon, telegraph station, postoffice, and even live entertainment. Hundreds of wagons camped outside its walls and pionners traded with the natives, buying stores and resting the oxen for the trip around the Estrellas. This could have been Phoenix.
|THE OLD SPANISH GOLD MINE|
Part 3. The Lost Mine and the Old Stone house. Next to Phoenix, but unknown. Where else could some site exist unknown and undisturbed for 250 years, except in the Estrellas. Even before Kino (1700) Spanish and Mexican adventurers prospectors were digging in the Montains of Central and Southern Arizona, in spite of the harsh climate, lack of water, distance to food and markets and, most of all, hostile indians (not that they didn't have a right to be very unhappy about the whole thing!). Built with slave labor, the Old Spanish mine with its walls and stone house, are a symbol of times past. Based on notes left by visitors, about 10-15 groups of people visit the site each year. That is enough, thank you.
|Chart of the SIERRA ESTRELLAS|
An attempt to identify major geographic features, place names and points of interest. This is a key to most of the locations mentioned on this site.
|THE PATIO AREA - The most historic location|
At the Southeastern tip of the range, under Montezuma's Head, is the Patio Area. This is where travellers have stopped and rested for hundreds of years, leaving their markings on the rocks. Unfortunately, time and people have not been good to the petroglyphs of the Patio Area.
|The MINE 2000 - Visit to the Mine on Thanksgiving 2000|
Yes, the Old House is still there. Basically we went to explore the extent of the currals and walls in the lower canyon. Didn't find the dates in the rock seen when a kid 40 years ago.
|MAPS: The Changing Face of the Region.|
How explorers saw the area. Evolution of charts of Maricopa Wells area and the Sierra Estrella region, from 1600s to early 1900s. BIG mistakes were made.