Arizona... a place of legends still conveyed through movies, T.V., the written
word and many storytellers. Maricopa County through it’s Regional Park system
encompasses considerable areas where many stories originated. McDowell Mountain
Regional Park is one such place where history is not only a form of speculation
with it’s Indian petroglyphs and archaeological sites, but considerable amount
of it actually transpired, and has been documented.
Almost 2,000 years ago nomadic big game
hunters spread into southwest North America. Next, the Hohokam Indians, who
evolved from the earlier Cochise culture, plus immigrants from Mexico occupied
much of Southern Arizona and Maricopa County from about 2,000 years ago to 1450
A.D. The Spanish the arrived in the early 1500’s under the leadership of
Coronodo. At that time, the areas near the confluence of the Salt and Verde
Rivers was home to between 4,000 and 10,000 Hohokam Indians. Native activities
ranged from intensive agriculture, with river irrigation, to nomadic hunting
and gathering. McDowell Park contains the remains of several such hunting and
gathering sites within its boundaries.
In 1865, Camp McDowell was founded on
the west bank of the Verde River. Remaining a permanent military post until
1890, it was the only fort inside present boundaries of Maricopa County.
Remains of the fort still exist in the present day village of Fort McDowell,
just a few miles southeast of McDowell Park. Due to the presence of Camp
McDowell and the protection it offered, settlement in the Salt River Valley was
permanent. On February 12,1871, Maricopa County was created to serve the
By early 1944, talk and correspondence
originated regarding establishing a County Park system. A committee was
established, studies were conducted for choosing locations, the process of land
acquisition was formatted and by 1945 certain land purchases and leases had
been completed. An 18,273 acreage for McDowell Park was first leased in 1958,
and patented in 1964. Through further land acquisition this has been expanded
to now encompass 21,099 acres. One of the largest in the Maricopa County Parks
System, McDowell Mountain Regional Park rates as one of the most scenic with
majestic mountain views.