Wickenburg: A day in the old west

“Hassayampa is temporarily closed due to heavy rain and flooding. If the rain subsides, the preserve will re-open on Wednesday, Jan. 25th.” ARGGGH, foiled again, what is it with me and the Hassayampa River Preserve? I just can’t seem to get through the gate whenever we have been in the area!

The Hassayampa River Preserve is considered to be an oasis in the desert due to its lush vegetation and flowing water, making a home to a variety of wildlife and approximately 300 different bird species. I was hoping to do a bit of birding and take a short walk. The terrain is vastly different in the preserve, cottonwood trees and lush landscape, thanks to river which creates a thriving watery sanctuary on the edge of the Sonoran Desert. The cottonwood-willow forest is one of the rarest types and most diverse habitats in the Southwest. The name “Hassayampa” comes from a Yavapai Indian word, hayesamo, meaning “following the water as far as it goes.” Apache Indians referred to it as the “upside down river” because it flows underground. The preserve was originally a stagecoach way station in the 1860s.


The good news is that the recent record rains in the Phoenix area will benefit the desert landscape, the wild flower season should be spectacular but really, rain isn’t why I wanted to winter in the desert! Okay, well enough whining about the rain as it is going to be sunshine again for at least the next 10 days and the Hassayampa will be there to see another day.

While we didn’t get into the preserve again we did have a great time in the nearby town of Wickenburg. This little town is seeping in history and is home to one the of the best western art and history museums in the state – The Desert Caballeros Western Museum.

In addition the amazing collection of Western art, the museum provides an opportunity to step back in time and see how life was in early Wickenburg. We wandered through scenes that tell the history of the region and the desert frontier. The recreations took us on a stroll along a street of old Wickenburg that re-creates life in Arizona circa 1915, complete with a general store and saloon. Turn the corner to visit a turn-of-the-century Victorian home including a parlor, dining room, kitchen, bedroom and laundry.

Despite all the recent alternative facts about the declining state of America and promises to make America great again, I can honestly say given the trials and tribulations our ancestors went through, life is pretty damn easy.

I really end enjoyed the Ride Through History: Saddles that Shaped the West exhibit.Created by master saddlemaker Carson Thomas, the 23 half-scale saddles at the core of this exhibition tell the story of the American West. The detailed saddles are augmented by historic and contemporary American Indian textiles from the collection of Steve Getzwiller, as well as other artifacts and artwork. Having owned numerous saddles in my “horsey” days, it was great fun to see these amazing reporductions in half size. I could imagine sitting in them, feeling the swaying rhythm of the horse while meandering through the hillsides dotted with saguaro cactus.


The drive back took us through some beautiful country and the highlight was seeing these wild burros near Lake Pleasant. The BLM manages these wild herds and they looked very healthy and content. There were at least 25 in the group we saw and it must have been “clean up” day as many of them were grooming each other. I suspect they appreciate the rain more than me as there is plenty of green scrub for them to munch on!


One thought on “Wickenburg: A day in the old west

  1. Is that preserve on the east side of Wickenburg? That town is fun to visit. Sorry to hear about all the rain, but should make for a nice showing of wildflowers just in time for me to return to Phoenix in early March. Love those wild burros!


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