Minnesota winters merit a getaway to Arizona. On this trip, I’m heading for Tucson with my husband David for a long weekend. We’re flying into Phoenix and driving to Tucson.
Our first stop is about 50 miles south of Phoenix near the Gila River Valley and the town of Coolidge. Here lies one of Arizona’s greatest mysteries — the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. No one alive now knows what name the people who built the Casa Grande called themselves centuries ago.
Casa Grande Ruins
Archeologists today use the term Hohokam to label the culture that flourished here about 900 years ago. The people who lived here, left suddenly.
These Ancestral People tapped the Gila and Salt rivers with irrigation canals that diverted high water to the floodplains’ rich soil. They grew crops that withstood desert conditions — corn, beans, squash, tobacco, cotton and agave. They gathered wood, fruit, buds and seeds as well as wild plants to be used for medicine. They hunted rabbits, deer and sheep. The rivers provided fish. Saguaro fruits were eaten, dried or made into wine. Their pottery had a distinctive style of red-on-buff patterns.
The Hohokam achieved remarkable success. For over 1,000 years, these people supported themselves with food they grew, hunted or gathered. The system provided for an estimated 80,000 people.
Sometime during the later half of the 14th century, the Hohokam entered a period of social disruption and community disintegration. There appear to be several causes including drought, flooding, and warfare.
This one-square mile park was set aside in 1892 to preserve what remained of an Ancestral Sonoran Desert People’s community and irrigation system.
Archeologists don’t know for sure what the purpose of Casa Grande was. Perhaps the “Great House” was used as a gathering place for desert people. Were sacred rituals held here? Was it an astronomical observatory? It can still be observed that the sun and moon line up with certain holes in the wall. Did a leader who oversaw the irrigation canals work inside these rooms? Did an influential family or clan call the Casa Grande home? The only thing known for sure is that it will remain a mystery forever.
(Information taken from state museum.arizona.edu, arizonaruins.com and National Park Services ‘Casa Grande Ruins’)
Next Stop: Catalina Foothills
Catalina Foothills is a northern suburb of Tucson and situated in the southern foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains.
We have arrived at our accommodations in a nice little condo community. It’s a great location and very comfortable. I love the pool.
This happens to be the winter nest of our favorite Snowbirds … my brother John and wife Vicki. Their hospitality is unbeatable and they are great tour guides.