Cottonwood Shade in Pima Canyon

The cottonwood’s deep roots draw water from a mountain stream.

Looking back down Pima Canyon on a spring morning plenty of green under the unrelenting sun.

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A large Fremont’s Cottonwood Offers shade and protection along the Pima Canyon Trail.

In the shade, a grapevine, offers a vain promise of grapes.

The cottonwood’s deep roots draw water from a mountain stream.

Native Americans in the Western United States and Mexico used parts of Frémont’s cottonwood variously for a medicine, in basket weaving, for tool making, and for musical instruments. The inner bark of Frémont’s cottonwood contains vitamin C and was chewed as an antiscorbutic – treatment for vitamin C deficiency. The bark and leaves could be used to make poultices to reduce inflammation or to treat wounds.

The Pima people of southern Arizona and northern Mexico lived along Sonoran Desert watercourses and used twigs from the tree in the fine and intricate baskets they wove. The Cahuilla people of southern California used the tree’s wood for tool making, the Pueblo peoples for drums, and the Lower Colorado River Quechan people in ritual cremations. The Hopi of Northeastern Arizona carve the root of the cottonwood to create kachina dolls.

Reference: Wikipedia “Fremont’s Cottonwood.”

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills

Canyoneering to Reavis Falls

No signposts in the wilderness

Reaching Reavis Falls, once you find the canyon mouth, is three-fourths of a mile of boulder hopping and bushwacking over and around landslides, deep pools and fallen trees.  Odds are you will be the only person in the canyon for weeks, if not months.  Expect to be surprised. In this chapter you will (finally) visit the falls themselves.

A Camp in the Canyon

Click me for the chapter about the environment around the mouth of Reavis Canyon below the falls.

The Last Mile

Here is an overview of the last third mile of Reavis Canyon.  You can see the wall of the falls nestled in the folds of ridges towards the top, just off center.

On the lower right is a large landslide and, below there, it is complete chaos.

The vegetation grows shoulder to shoulder with interleaved branches.  You will not get through there.  The solution is to find a way around, usually over and around house-sized boulders.

The image was captured from Google Earth


After almost two hours of picking my way, there was a flicker of light.  The fall waters were sparkling in the sunlight high above the cottonwood trees, in full Mach bloom, and the still leafless Arizona Sycamores.

This was my view of Reavis Falls from the canyon on a March day before the Arizona Sycamores have leaved. The falls are the tiny patch of white to the left of midline where the earth meets the sky. Jumbles of infallen boulders and thick growth of sycamores, oaks and fully leaved cottonwoods cloak the falls.

Another 30 minutes of canyoneering brought me to the foot of the falls.

At the Foot of Reavis Falls

Looking up at Reavis Falls from a 20 foot tall mound of talus.

These are boulders  washed down at flood time.

The rock wall is thick with microorganisms, fungi and mosses.

After clambering around the talus pile I found this angle….

An Arizona Sycamore, before the spring leafing, at the Foot of Reavis Falls

Talus at the Foot of Reavis Falls

The Reavis Falls talus is large boulders carried down Reavis Creek and washed over the falls at flood time as well as blocks fractured from the cliff face.  You can see the base of the Sycamore from the previous photograph.

The falls are formed where Reavis Creek flows over a solid mass of rock.  The talus is composed mostly of this red rock.  From the edge of this cliff to the base, where the falls hit the canyon floor, is all of 140 feet.  This is a far as you can proceed into the canyon without some serious climbing skills.

It is possible to climb around the canyon by climbing up the ridge from which I captured the Cedar Basin Hoodoos.  See my posts below for this location (you need to work it our for yourself).

This is NOT the last post of the series.  From here I will focus on the beauty of Reavis Falls and the canyon that holds them.

It was a four-day expedition so there are a few chapters covering the approach to the Falls:

Lime Mountain Morning

Two Bar Mountain View

Evening on Two Bar Mountain

Among the desert wildflowers

Superstition Wilderness Dawn

Dry Juniper Descent

Hoodoos on the Descent to Reavis Falls

Cedar Basin Hoodoos

Reavis Canyon Camp

Reavis Canyon Rivulets and Rocks

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Reavis Canyon Rivulets and Rocks

Canyon of Wonder and Beauty

Born from Eruption and Flood

The Superstition Wilderness was born from volcanic eruption and in some places (Peters Mesa) the earth still rumbles.

Here in Reavis Canyon it is the huge spring runoff that builds the environment, grinding and scouring the canyon. In my chapter The Mouth of Reavis Canyon is the story of this aspect of the canyon.

The history of this spot is written on these volcanic and igneous rocks and boulders, the uprooted tree roots and fresh water.

The tire must have washed down from Reavis Ranch.

A Canyon of Wonder and Beauty

In this chapter I present, in the header, the lovely dawn sky of that day, and a tiny corner of a rock jumble in Reavis Creek.   There is a large format version of the sky in my previous post, “The Mouth of Reavis Canyon.”

Rivulets and Rocks

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

The Mouth of Reavis Canyon

Canyon Hazards and Beauty

In this chapter we enter the Mouth of Reavis Canyon below Reavis Falls and examine the beauty and danger of this remote canyon.

See Reavis Canyon Camp for more of my expedition to Reavis Falls.

Dawn on the day I entered Reavis Canyon

Dawn light above the outline of the prominent cliff above Reavis Canyon and Falls the morning of my last day in the canyon.

You might recognize the outline of this cliff from the chapter  Two Bar Mountain View or Evening on Two Bar Mountain.

Here is the same view, in daylight. As I hiked toward the canyon mouth below Reavis Falls, looking up I saw this prominant cliff against the sky.

Here is the path I took toward the falls.  The campsite is to the lower right, the falls are toward the center and left.  My approach to the camp is on the right, moving toward the top.  For another view of this location see Reavis Canyon Camp.

The mouth of Reavis Canyon below the falls is choked with vegetation and infallen rocks and boulders.  The far slopes are thick with the poles of young saguaros. There are hoodoos, as well.  In the photograph, below, one hoodoo is catching morning light.  See the chapters Hoodoos on the Descent to Reavis Falls and Cedar Basin Hoodoos for more views of the hoodoos around Reavis Falls.

Hoodoos visible from the mouth of Reavis Canyon below the falls. Look toward the far slope.

Flood damage in Reavis Canyon below the falls. Note the scouring at the base of these trees and the broken limbs. This is NOT a place to be in spring thaw.

Massive spring flooding scours the canyon floor.

Flood damage in Reavis Canyon below the falls.

There is beauty to be found, as well. Freshly fallen rough rocks contrast with water smoothed boulders and the water surface.

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Reavis Canyon Camp

below the Falls

Here is an overview of my route through Cedar Basin on the way to Reavis Falls.  There are two paths in the following image from Google Earth.  The red path brings you into Cedar Basin and straight up a ridge and down to the campsite.  The red path is incorrect in the approach to the ridge and, rather than repaint the path, I created the green path as the gradual and accurate description of how I climbed to the ridge point where I captured the photographs Hoodoos on the Descent to Reavis Falls.

No Path to Reavis Falls

You need to understand there is NO path through this terrain.  It is necessary to follow a faint trail marked out by the footsteps of those before you and an occasional rock cairn placed at the most difficult points.  The following image is misleading in that what looks like a road next to my green path is actually a creek bed from the Lime Mountain spring.

Huge Boulders

What looks like a road is the resting place of huge boulders fallen from the surrounding mountains. Since there is water, thick brush and trees grow everywhere in cracks and spaces between the boulders and rocks.  Getting through the creek bed with an 80 pound pack and not getting lost is close to impossible. The solution is to hug the ridge slope, following the contours and navigate around boulders.

Reavis Canyon below the falls is filled with boulders of this size held in place by friction.

View of Reavis Canyon and Campsite

From the ridge small portions of Reavis Canyon were visible.  I even spotted a campsite.

The mouth of Reavis Canyon below the falls opens into a sandy bottom. This camp, surronded by house-size boulders fallen from the slopes above, has a patch of grass bright green and fresh.

This camp, 1,636 feet below Lime Mountain peak, surrounded by house-size boulders fallen from the slopes above, has a patch of grass bright green and fresh to the right.  In the center of the photograph is a tree trunk on rocks to serve as a bench next to a fireplace. With an 80 pound pack on my back, I was still an hour or so away from this spot.  It was March, so sunset was around 6 pm, enough time to find a way down before darkness to overtook me.

Looking down from a ridge above the canyon that holds Reavis Creek and the falls.

This is an overview of my progress, with the Lime Mountain and Reavis Canyon campsites marked. Landforms are marked on the left: the Prominent Cliff , in the background it says “White Formation on Cliff.”

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Cedar Basin Hoodoos

Hoodoos and Young Saguaros

In my previous posting “Hoodoos on the Descent to Reavis Falls” I describe how I came to find these strange rock formations during a solo expedition to Reavis Falls in the remote eastern Superstition Wilderness.

Here I present several photographs captured from my tripod mounted Kodak DCS pro slr/c and a Canon EF 200 mm f2.8 L telephoto lens.  These provide a better understanding of the strange, wonderful and possibly frightening impressions these formations make when discovered in a deserted location such as Cedar Basin.

Here is the highest point of the ridge….

Hoodoo Ridge

…..and from a portion of the ridge that projects closer to my observation point above the canyon mouth of Reavis Falls. The numerous green poles are young Saguaro cactus. In the distance are mature Saguaros with lateral arms.

Hoodoos of Cedar Basin

..and even closer than this were the rocks standing around me.   This specimen I captured with the 50 mm 1.4 Canon lens.  I believe it is a different rock type than the above, rounded, hoodoos.  Those look like rock from ash of a volcanic eruption.  This rock seems to be igneous, formed deep inside the earth.

Cedar Basin Rock Closeup

My next posting will describe the surroundings of the campsite from which I explored the canyon and Reavis Falls.

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Hoodoos on the Descent to Reavis Falls

layers of stone weathered over eons by water, wind, sun and cold

My previous post, “Dry Juniper Descent” had me above the ridge of the featured photograph.

I interrupted my descent to Reavis Falls to stop on a ridge overlooking Reavis Creek, the same ridge that forms the western wall of the canyon.  By this time it was late afternoon on a March Day with the angle of the sun being perfect for capturing rock formations.  Notice the effect of the light on the distant mountains.

This is the North / Northeast view of the opposite ridge above a flow from multiple springs on Lime Mountain.

This photograph was created from multiple images using tripod-mounted Kodak DCS ProSlr/c with a 50mm, 1.4 Canon lens.

Cedar Basin hoodoos on the slopes of Lime Mountain
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Hoodoos

The ridge and slopes are covered with a rock formation named Hoodoos for the fantastic shapes taken on by layers of stone weathered over eons by water, wind, sun and cold.  These hoodoos are enormous, some precisely balanced and carved into elaborate shapes.  The word “Hoodoo” derives from the name of the practice of sorcery or folk magic.  You can image the effect on ancient people of coming upon these formations and believing them created by malevolent beings (djinns, goblins, demons) in their leisure time, when not causing problems, and worse, for humans.  These beings are especially active in desert places, such as this, which has the comforting name of Cedar Basin.

The hoodoos cast a spell on me.  I had never heard of Cedar Basin, but knew, as the sun was low in the west, I needed to unload my 70 pound pack, set up the tripod and camera to spend over an hour of precious time to capture the images of this blog.

Ancient Village

Cedar Basin forms on one side from the ridge of this photograph. On the other side of the ridge, the mountain slope levels out to a site settled by ancient people we call Sin Agua.  There is nothing but a few stones left of their village and way of life.

Cedar Basin

Looking to the left of the Hoodoo Panorama photograph and into Cedar Basin, you see more of that same rock type that formed the hoodoos to the right on this same ridge.  This is also the lower slopes of Lime Mountain, as you can see from the color of the upper ridge.

The Slopes of Cedar Basin

This and the following photographs were created using a tripod-mounted Kodak DCS ProSlr/c with a 200mm, 1.4 Canon L type lens.

Another side of the basin is formed by the ridge I am on.  This side is across from the canyon of Reavis Creek and Falls.  The trail leads down switchbacks from the Dry Juniper of my previous post to a dry draw.  You can see the way I came in the following two photographs.  I captured Castle Dome, then panned to the right for the rest of the ridge.  You can see the trail to Reavis Ranch carved into the slopes of Castle Dome.

Castle Dome Ridge and Reavis Ranch Trail

Cedar Basin and Castle Dome

I then panned one more time to the right to capture the ridge above Cedar Basin and the start of the hoodoos.  It was an army spread across the entire ridge!!

Cedar Basin and Castle Dome

My next posting will feature close-up of the most interesting hoodoos from the panorama, using a 200 mm telephoto lens.

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Dry Juniper Descent

One-seed Juniper

On my fourth morning, after I awoke to am immense silence, my first photography subject was the lone dry juniper you see below.

Then the dawn lit up the far mountains.  You can view a larger image these mountains at dawn in my previous blog, “Superstition Wilderness Dawn.”

A Lone Dry Juniper

This is a photograph of that juniper tree, dryer than most, being dead.  I take it to be a One-seed Juniper from the thick growth of branches and the strong rounded aspect of the crown.  I captured this photograph from a tripod mount using a Kodak DCS slr/c with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens.

Looking into Reavis Creek Canyon from Lime Mountain

I used the tripod to bracket this shot on the left and right for the following panorama.

The Reavis Creek Canyon from Lime Mountain while still in shadow, morning

The Spirit of Elisha Reavis

From this vantage you can see my route into Reavis Creek Canyon and Reavis Falls taken on the first afternoon of the expedition.  That first morning I loaded up 65 pounds of food, supplies and photography equipment and headed out from the Reavis Trailhead on the Reavis Ranch Trail.  This was one of the trailed used by Elisha Reavis to ride a favorite burro and a string of 8 to 15 burros loaded with vegetables he sold to various communities throughout central Arizona.  See my blogs “A Ride to Reavis Ranch” and “Apple Orchard in the Wilderness“for views of the paradise (as of the early 21st century) where Elisha Reavis, lived and prospered in the latter part of the 19th century where he lived his 70’s.

This his mountain valley, using a perennial creek, Reavis cultivated and irrigated about fifteen acres of land by himself with chickens, turkeys, hogs, burros, two horses and several dogs.   The horses, teamed together, pulled a shear plow, disc and leveler.  On April 9, 1896 Reavis was preparing of another trip to Mesa, to buy seed potatoes, and was found by a friend a month later on what is now the Reavis Ranch trail, to the south and west of his valley, near what is now called Grave Canyon were friends buried him.

Past the Dry Juniper and Down

102 years later, I headed up the Reavis Ranch Trail, over the ridge of Lime Mountain and past this dry juniper in the same spirit as Elisha Reavis if for a different purpose.

Reference

An excellent article on Elisha Reavis by Tom Kollenborn, author of “Lost Dutchman Gold” and “Circlestone”.

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Superstition Wilderness Dawn

on the slopes of Lime Mountain

Pre-dawn on the fourth morning of my solo expedition to Reavis Falls, before the last posting “Among the Desert Wildflowers“, on the slopes of Lime Mountain, as the eastern sky became slightly less dark, I woke to an unusual sensation:  total silence.  The air was absolutely still, no insects trilled, the birds were still asleep.  Lying very still, the ringing of my ears announced the silence.

In that silence I set up for this panorama taken from a tripod-mounted Kodak DCS ProSLR/c mounted with a Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM telephoto lens.  It is 5 image files combined.  The source file is about 300 MB.

That is Pinyon Mountain in the center distance.  The Arizona Trail traverses that terrain, though it is not visible from this distance (it is about 3 miles away).

Lime Mountain is truly a light green, as you can see from the foreground ledge.  From there, a cliff runs round where on a south-facing site there are cliff dwelling ruins.  The trail to Reavis Falls runs to the right, along a ridge broken by a narrow canyon with access to Cedar Basin, also at the foot of these cliffs.

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Among the desert wildflowers

Among the grasses, cacti and lichen-covered rocks were many small wildflowers

See Evening on Two Bar Mountain for another chapter of my four-day solo expedition to Reavis Falls in the remote eastern Superstition Wilderness.

Campsite at Morning

On the late-morning of day three I climbed out of the Reavis Creek valley to camp on the slopes of Lime Mountain.  There I watched the afternoon progress to evening, a full moon rise in a bright sky and other events featured in this blog.  All around my campsite under a lone juniper the mountain side was blooming.

Grasses, Cacti and Flowers

Among the grasses, cacti and lichen-covered rocks were many small wildflowers.  I was careful to avoid damaging them and otherwise enjoyed their beauty and plentiful blooms my entire stay.  I capture some of them in the early morning light and spent some time identifying them for you.

Desert Hyacinth is a perennial lilly (Liliaceae).

It grows from an onion-like bulb used for food by pioneers and Native Americans.  This lilly propagates through this bulb and, also, from seed that forms from these flowers.

The umbel-shaped flowers grow in clusters at the end of long, leafless stalks.  Each blossom is an inch across and has six segments that are like petals.

Also called Blue Dicks, bluedicks, Papago lily, purplehead, grassnuts, covena, coveria.

Lupine is a pea, a perennial herb and a favorite of bees. Like other lupines, it improves the soil.
Their root nodules, with the aid of certain bacteria, allow lupines and other legumes to absorb free nitrogen from the air.

A member of the Phlox family (Polemonium), this five (5) petal flower bloomed in small groups on erect stalks with sparse leaves. The stamen heads are notable for a bright blue color.

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved