Pipe Spring National Monument

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Pipe Spring National Monument is in Northern Arizona, just south of the Utah border. It is a National Park Service gem off the beaten path.  The natural spring made this land home to the Kaibab Paiutes. Mormons, driving cattle from St. George Utah were attracted to the oasis in the 1860s.  A fort called Winsor Castle was erected over the springs in 1872 which was then purchased by Brigham Young for the Church of the Latter Day Saints.
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The fort was never actually used for defensive measures in any battle, but instead became a thriving outpost for Westward travelers and even had its own telegraph. Pipe Springs served as a ranch and dairy farm, shipping fresh cheese and other provisions back to the settlement at St. George.
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The church lost ownership of the Pipe Springs as a penalty to the federal government in 1887 over a dispute involving polygamy.
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We arrived at the monument just in time to take the tour of Winsor Castle. Ranger Julie was a great guide…she taught us a lot about the history of the area, but kept it fun and interesting, even for my teen. The highlight was the cool room in the basement with the spring running through it and the remnants of the cheese-making operation.

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The story of how this area, which was once a rich grassland, gave way to high desert because of over-farming is a sobering tale…and a cautionary one of what could happen if we don’t take better care of the environment.

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After the tour, we hiked the short Ridge trail which starts just to the west of the fort. It’s a short loop, a little over half a mile, that climbs the short ridge behind the fort on a series of long switchbacks. The elevation gain is 130 feet, but it feels steeper in the hot desert sun. It is in the high desert though, so the base is already around 5000 feet.

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The Kaibab Paiute Reservation was created in 1907 and the land surrounding the monument is part of the Reservation. At a few points on the trail, we ran into fencing and signs warning off trespassers from Paiute land.

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The trail then descends down the other side to arrive at the fort, corrals, garden, and orchard. We visited the oxen and horses in the corral and stopped in the gift shop.

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Location: 406 N Pipe Spring Rd, Fredonia, AZ 86022

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 5/31/1923

Date of my visit: 4/14/2017

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19 thoughts on “Pipe Spring National Monument

  1. It was nice coincidence for me to find this when I got home — on our way home this evening, we were talking about friends who stayed in Kenab last night and wondering if they got to Pipe Spring. It is a fascinating place because it reveals the clash of three cultures, the Paiute, the Mormons and the U.S. Government, and, unlike many such places, it does not portray any group as particularly good or particularly bad — they all were just different cultures.

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  2. While most people know the jewels we have as National Parks, your blog does a real service making people aware of some other treasures – often hidden – in our National Monuments, This was a good one and we will plan to make a visit next time in Arizona.

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  3. We visited this little gem in early May last year during our Southern Utah and Colorado tour. It is definitely off the beaten path, but so worth a visit. We stayed in Kabab for a week and it was a great location to tour lots of cool places! Can’t imagine being there in August though! Whew! 😳

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      1. Oops…looks like I have the wrong date for our visit. We were there in April of 2017 at the end of a Utah trip..it was hot enough then, lol. We did tour hot spots in AZ in August of 2014 and it was super hot, but we still enjoyed it. Having a school-aged child limits when we can travel without disrupting her studies, so we often have to make the best of traveling at peak times in less than ideal weather.

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    1. Great question and this did actually come up during the tour. The spring that runs through the fort is the same water source used by the Paiutes (I’m guessing it has multiple access points, or they use wells.) Because of the way the land was depleted by excessive cattle grazing and also due to climate change, the supply is dwindling and the people who live there will soon need an alternative water source.

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    2. So the way the ranger explained it, the area was once lush grassland. Bringing in the large herds depleted the grass and led to erosion of the soil which changed the landscape from grassland/prairie to high desert. Add warming planet and persistent drought to that…

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