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Maricopa County Parks and Recreation

History

Arizona... a place of legends still conveyed through movies, T.V., the written word and many storytellers. Maricopa County through its 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 its 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 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 growing population.

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.

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