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Casa Grande National Monument in Arizona

Arizona is a fabulous state filled with beauty and natural wonders. Amazing canyons (Grand!), mountains, and desert scenery await visitors.

Casa Grande National Monument

Casa Grande National Monument

Casa Grande National Monument

Archaeologists have found much of interest at this site, as ancient pueblo peoples lived, worked and died here for many centuries. Much of this was before the "discovery" of this continent by explorers from Europe and other countries, plus the westward expansion of settlers in what would eventually become the United States.

Relics of the past, including ancient ruins, were left behind as a testament to Native American Indian presence.

Casa Grande, a national monument, was on my hubby’s and my list of places to explore one year when we were spending some time in Arizona.

Preparing for a Visit

Casa Grande is in the Sonoran Desert, one of North America's largest and hottest of deserts. Depending upon the season of the year when visiting this national monument, one should dress accordingly.

Winters in the desert (November to March) can be reasonably comfortable with moderately high temperatures ranging from averages of 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) with lower night-time temperatures. In the summer months, those high temperatures can become sizzling!

Do plan on wearing comfortable clothing with good walking shoes. Sunglasses and having and using suntan lotion is a smart precaution. No matter what time of year one is vacationing in the southern reaches of Arizona, the sun is almost always bright and dazzling.

When traveling through any desert territory, always having plenty of water or other fluids is a must!

Life in the Sonoran Desert

The Sonoran desert covers a good part of southwestern Arizona, parts of southern California, Baja California and parts of Mexico. Many plants and wildlife survive in that environment, including the iconic saguaro cactus.

Hohokam Indian people lived in that part of Arizona for over one thousand years before disappearing around the year 1450 from this Casa Grande site.

They were successful farmers scratching out a living in this desert territory by successfully building a series of irrigation canals.

By watching the sun's progress, a new and very accurate calendar was followed and utilized by these Hohokam Indian farmers. Farmers today also pay attention to the time of year and the best time to plant their new crops.

Archaeological ruins show how these native Americans used the sun for gauging the time of day and time of year. Petroglyphs also show marks scratched and drawn onto stones with images of the sun as well as other drawings of importance related to how they lived.

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Discovery and Protection of These Ruins

As people started moving and settling in the west, those native American ruins were discovered. Father Eusebio Kino saw the site in November of 1694 and named it Casa Grande. Sadly, people began removing remnants of this ancient Hohokam Indian culture as well as drawing graffiti onto the walls.

President Benjamin Harrison, in 1892 designated this Casa Grande as the first-ever historical and cultural reserve in the United States worth protecting. The name Casa Grande means "big house" or "grand house," and the most massive structure, which is about four stories high, certainly dominates the landscape. One square mile was originally set aside containing these ruins.

By 1918 President Woodrow Wilson declared it to be a national monument, and the National Park Service took over its management.

Reinforcement of the caliche Indian ruins was undertaken to preserve it. A protective corrugated roof was built over the "big house" in 1903 to protect it from the elements.

Caliche is a sedimentary rock found in desert conditions around the world. These ancient pueblo peoples used what they found in the Sonoran Desert readily available to build their domiciles. However, caliche does not hold up well to rain. A second steel roof constructed in 1932 now protects these ruins further.

As of October 1966, it is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

The CCC

The Civilian Conservation Corps was a popular program that employed out of work single young men during the Great Depression. They did outstanding jobs with long-lasting effects, some of which included things such as the following:

  • Flood control
  • Erosion control
  • Forestry conservation and protection
  • Building of roads
  • Building of lodges
  • Even items with recreational purposes such as the stocking of lakes and streams with fish.

The CCC employees were not paid that much. However, during the Great Depression, being fed, receiving a little money (most of which was paid to their family) and accomplishing tasks of importance was better than being one of the countless people who had no job and who had to stand in soup lines for a bit of daily nourishment. These young men were fortunate temporary employees of the Federal Government during that time.

From 1937 to 1940, Civilian Conservation Corps members built Adobe Park headquarter buildings on the site next to Casa Grande. The park service still operates from those buildings today.

CCC workers building a rock wall

CCC workers building a rock wall

Location

Casa Grande National Monument is in Coolidge, Arizona. You will find it about forty miles south of Phoenix on the way to Tucson, Arizona.

It is well worth a stop if traveling to Arizona on vacation. Take time out to stroll the desert grounds and learn about the ancient ruins left behind in the 13th century by the Hohokam people. See some of the relics in the museum and enjoy the surrounding Sonoran desert scenery.

Monuments are the grappling-irons that bind one generation to another.

— Joseph Joubert

Sources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Peggy Woods

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