Agua Caliente History – a natural spring park in Tucson, AZ (part 1 of 3)

Drive northeast of the Tucson city limits and you will discover a natural spring surrounded by wildlife, palm trees and native vegetation.  Agua Caliente Park transports a visitor from the Sonoran Desert to a 101-acre hidden oasis.

Agua Caliente, (hot water) is named for the warm water spring that supports several ponds within the park.

sites in Tucson - must visit
a natural spring in Tucson – Agua Caliente Park

Agua Caliente Park has an open lawn edged by tall Date Palms, and a stream bank lined with mature California Fan Palms close to 100 years old.

Tucson, AZ parks and springs
Palm trees at Agua Caliente

Human habitation at Agua Caliente has been found to date back about 5,500 years.  I’d like to share a simple history and insights into the rich farming and ranching of the unique desert oasis called Agua Caliente.

Arizona natural spring park
natural spring in Tucson Arizona – Agua Caliente

From A.D. 600 to 1450, the prehistoric Hohokam constructed one of the largest and most advanced irrigation networks ever created using pre-industrial technology.

This technology would eventually give form to the unique prehistoric culture of southern Arizona known as the Hohokam.

hohokam found at Agua Caliente, Tucson, AZ
Hohokam village, Whiptail site

Around 1150 AD, a Hohokam village, referred to as the Whiptail Site, was established that extended into a portion of Agua Caliente in the Tucson basin.

hohokam people in Tucson Basin, AZ
Hohokam artifacts found at Agua Caliente

Deserving of our respect, the incredible Hohokam were able to sustain life in the area of Agua Caliente for nearly 1,500 years.

Hohokam lived at Agua Caliente in Tucson, AZ
Hohokam pottery – approximately 800 CE (A.D.)

The hot spring at the Whiptail Site at Agua Caliente Park has attracted native settlers since about 2500 B.C.  These facts are what has helped put the Tucson Basin on the map as one of the oldest continuously inhabited areas in North America.

Coronado National Forest in Tucson
Agua Caliente is south of the Coronado National Forest , Mt Lemmon area
Agua Caliente oldest Mesquite Tree
Giant Mesquite Tree by the main Ranch House is over 250 yrs old

About 1853-1870s,  Agua Caliente Spring was used as an army encampment following the Gadsden Purchase.  What is the Gadsden Purchase?

**James Gadsden was the U.S. Minister to Mexico who was sent to renegotiate a border with Mexico that provided a route for a southern railroad in exchange for U.S. financial obligations.

places to visit in Tucson, AZ
Agua Caliente Park – a must see in Tucson, AZ

In 1873, Peter Bain filed the first formal claim to 160 acres surrounding Agua Caliente Spring.  He began a dairy cattle operation by bringing cows north from Sonora. Bain built a house, several outbuildings and corrals at Agua Caliente.

must see parks in Tucson, AZ
Ranch House, now an art gallery, at Agua Caliente spring

In 1875,  James P. Fuller purchased “Agua Caliente Rancho” and established an orchard and cattle ranch on the property.

native Velvet Mesquites for shade
native Mesquite trees at Agua Caliente in Tucson

In 1881, Fuller’s Hot Springs Resort was advertised as a medicinal and recreational destination.  He promoted the curative properties of the natural warm springs.

Agua Caliente Springs and Ranch
Agua Caliente warm springs

1880s-1920s.  Various owners operated Agua Caliente as a cattle ranch and resort.  The ranch bunkhouse, which dates back to the 1920s, was used by the ranch hands.

historic sites in Arizona
Historic Ranch House at Agua Caliente Park in Tucson
best parks in Tucson, Arizona
Agua Caliente Ranch and Hot Springs

The ranch house, caretaker cottage, now known as Rose Cottage, and the bunk house have been restored. The ranch house depicts the home as it may have appeared in the 1920s.

Tucson, AZ historic landmark
Rose Cottage is a historic building at Agua Caliente

In 1935,  Gibson DeKalb Hazard purchased Agua Caliente and operated it as a working ranch while also growing fruit and alfalfa.

In 1951,  the Filiatrault family took over the ownership of Agua Caliente consisting of three large lakes.  They also grew alfalfa for their cattle and horses and maintained the fruit orchard Fuller established in 1875.

place to visit in Arizona
Agua Caliente Spring Tucson, AZ

In 1984,  local businessman Roy P. Drachman donated over $200,000 toward the purchase of Agua Caliente.  The donation provided the incentive for Pima County to acquire the property and establish Agua Caliente Park.

Agua Caliente Park, a Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation Facility,  opened on January 19th, 1985.

March 1, 1997.  Agua Caliente’s expansion areas were opened for public use. The park improvements included a paved entry drive and parking lot, accessible trails, interpretive signs explaining the waterfowl and history of this unique park, and a new maintenance building.

Drachman donated to Agua Caliente
signs throughout Agua Caliente

April 17, 2004.  The grand opening of the newly restored Ranch House and Rose Cottage.

The ranch house was built around 1873 and is currently a visitor center and an art gallery.  Call 520-749-3718 for more information.

Agua Caliente Oasis in Tucson
Historic places in Arizona

July 9, 2009.  Agua Caliente Ranch Historic Landscape was entered into the National Register of Historic Places.

For more interesting info click , part 2 of 3 – http://tjsgarden.com/2013/09/07/best-picnics-family-time-perfect-weddings-tucson-spring-park/

part 3 of 3 – http://tjsgarden.com/2013/09/12/agua-caliente-park-spring-drying-up-tucson/

Pima County Agua Caliente Park, 12325 East Roger Road, Tucson  85749         Phone: 520-877-6120

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Arizona Javelina, collard peccary – are pig like desert dwellers

What looks like a gray wild boar in AZ and TX?  Javelina – hairy, smelly and oh so adorable!  

Javelina look like wild pigs but they are actually in the genus Pecari and members of the Tayassuidae family.  One way to tell the difference between pigs and peccaries is by the shape of the canine tooth, or tusk.  In pigs, the tusk is long and curves.  In javelinas the tusk is straight.  Collared peccaries have large tusks that sharpen when the mouth opens and closes with which they can slash a predator or unsuspecting human.

Javelinas originated from South America but are common in Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona.   In the United States javelina are found mainly in the southwest.

Javelina with raised hair
Javelina with raised hair

The photo above is a javelina in our Arizona driveway who was not happy with me taking his picture.  See the hairs standing up on his back!

These pig like mammals are grayish, black with a faint white band of coarse hair around the shoulders.  The “collar”.   Collared Peccary are compact and weigh up to 60 pounds with dainty three-toed hooves. 

javelina with baby
javelina with baby called a red.

The word Javelina,  comes from the Spanish word javelin which means spear, referring to their long, pointed canine teeth.  Javelina moms are very protective of their young and will charge if they feel any threat.  When anyone in our area sees a herd of collard peccary with young we turn around and go the other way to keep out of danger!  Javelina can run up to 25 miles per hour.

Baby javelina are born year round but most often from November to March.  The newborn javelinas are reddish-brown and so cute!!  Newborns are called reds.  The average life span of the javelina is 7 1/2 years.

arizona wild pig eats cactus
Collared Peccary, Javelina in the southwest

Their diet consists mainly of prickly pear cactus.  Javelina kidneys are very efficient and filter out oxalic acid found in the cactus.  Collard peccary are omnivores that eat mesquite beans, tubers, seeds, insects and garbage.

Arizona Javelina
Arizona Javelina collared peccary

These omnivores have poor eyesight but a keen sense of smell. The javelinas around our desert neighborhood know exactly when the trash cans will be placed out for pickup!

collard peccary
Javelina look like wild pigs

Collard peccaries are expert desert-dwellers.  They like to forage in social groups during the early morning and evening, then sleep in the shade of mesquite trees during the hottest time of the day.  Javelinas will roll around in water and mud to keep cool.

To enjoy more newborn javelinas – http://tjsgarden.com/2013/01/01/newborn-baby-javelinas-arizona/

baby desert wild pig
baby javelina – collared peccary

Often you may smell a javelina before you see it!  They have a musk gland at the base of their rump that they use to mark trees, rocks and even each other with a sharp scent similar to a skunk.  This scent allows individual javelinas to keep in contact with the herd.

herd of javelina
herd of javelina

Javelina herds rely on each other to defend territory and protect against predators.

Natural predators of javelina are dogs, coyotes and mountain lions.  Arizona game hunters also target javelina.  Personally,  I enjoy their funny demeanor and I like to let them do their piggy thing in peace. 🙂 

Bobcat lynx in Arizona – facts of the mammal “lynx rufus”

Through our backyard we experienced a bobcat observing his prey. The bobcat has a short tail with black fur on the top.  This wildcat’s face is wide as you can see in the pictures below.  You can also view the longer fur on their cheeks.

There are four medium-sized, wild-cat, mammal species of Lynx genus.  The bobcat and the Canadian bobcat lynx are the smallest of the species.

Canada bobcat
Canadian Lynx is Canada’s bobcat

Lynx canadensis, Canada Lynx has a dense brown-silvery coat.  Look at the size of those large furry feet that it uses as snowshoes!  Canadian Lynx live in Minnesota, Maine, northwestern US and across Canada.  This lynx was hunted for its fur to almost extinction.  The Canadian Lynx is now protected by law.

Bobcat mammals can be found from northern Mexico into the Sonoran Desert, throughout the US and into southern Canada. They are the most common wildcat animals in North America.

Arizona Bobcat wildlife
Bobcat Lynx in Arizona

Note the ears of the bobcat, they are black-tipped and pointed. The eyes of this lynx are yellow with black pupils.

wild cats bobcats
Bobcat animal at AZ Desert Museum

It is uncommon to view a bobcat in the wild because they are very elusive.  Bobcats are most active during dawn and dusk; which is called crepuscular.  We felt very lucky for this viewing opportunity; but our small dog was going crazy barking at the wild cat.

Arizona wild cat animal bobcat
bobcat lynx in the desert

In the photo above, the bobcat was staring right at our Jack Russell dog.

A few more facts about the bobcat lynx:

  • Its color ranges from orange-ish brown to pale gray with black spots
  • Excellent climber
  • Bobcats avoid water but will swim if they need to
  • is territorial and largely solitary
  • like most cats, the bobcat marks its territory with urine or feces
  • its hind legs are longer than its front legs
  • bobcats have a main den but they do not mind sleeping in our yards
  • the predators of a bobcat are mountain lions, coyotes and humans
  • bobcat lynx can live 13-15 years
  • Mating season is spring – female bobcats have 2-3 kittens
bobcat species
Arizona wild cat lynx

Generally, Bobcat lynx weighs between 15 and 30 pounds. The bobcat animal I was watching looked bigger than 30 pounds. Males are larger than the females so I would say this wildcat was a male.

bobcat wildcat in tucson
bobcat animal Arizona

When bobcats roar or growl, it is so rough and deep they are often mistaken for a mountain lion.

tucson arizona bobcat animal
bobcat lynx rufus in the Sonoran desert

The largest bobcat lynx ever recorded was 60 lbs (27 kg).  It came from Canada.  How high can a bobcat jump?  This Arizona lynx rufus, Bobcat, can jump as high as twelve feet!

male bobcat lynx in arizona
Bobcat male animal hunting prey

Bobcats are carnivores and love to eat rabbits, birds, lizards, rodents and snakes.  Occasionally they will kill a deer.

Two or three females live in the male bobcat’s territory.  He mates with all of them and will father the litters.  The male bobcat feeds the mothers and all the kittens.

bobcat mammal male cat hunting
AZ bobcat lynx muscular body

The bobcat is able to go for long periods without food which is good because with my dogs barking this wildcat finally became frustrated and vanished in a blink of an eye.

How fast can the bobcat run? – Up to 30 miles per hour –  Bobcats prefer to walk which makes them a very quiet hunter.  Bobcat lynx ambush their prey by waiting motionless and then pouncing on it, exactly like the picture above.

For more facts about the bobcat lynx watch this short youtube video.

This Arizona bobcat lynx experience was amazing!  We were privy to 9-10 minutes of this  wildcat’s life.  If the dogs were not outside, we may have witnessed much more!