Saturday, January 28, 2017

Salt River Canyon, AZ Interior (1/10/2017)

Much of the Salt River Canyon is on Apache tribal lands, either the San Carlos tribe or the White Mountain Apaches of Fort Apache.  Another part of the canyon is a wilderness area that's within Tonto National Forest.  To visit the Apache sections, which is what I planned to do, requires a permit from one of the tribes.  I learned on the internet that permits can be purchased at a trading post just off Highway 60 in the canyon, so that was my plan.  However, when I entered the Apache territory, I found there is no trading post.  A couple Apaches I met there told me the trading post was abandoned years ago.  Then there was a permit kiosk, but it's also gone now.  Without a permit, I decided to change my plan and only visit a small part of the canyon, not the full 48 mile trip I wanted to do.  My Apache acquaintances told me that Rangers regularly patrol the canyon road and issue citations for offenders.

My first stop was at Apache Falls, which I had seen from the highway earlier.  The rock along the river provides a good place for up close photos of the falls and rapids.  I even encountered my first road runner of this trip.


I decided to risk meeting an Apache Ranger by taking a short drive down stream, wanting to go at least as far as Cibecue Creek, about four miles away.  At the creek, I had to make a decision whether to hike to the beautiful waterfall a little more than a mile upstream.  Given that the creek was full and had to be crossed multiple times to reach the falls, plus the time to hike would greatly increase the chances of being caught with no permit, I chose to forego this opportunity.  Maybe I'll return some day with a permit.

I also made a short video of the drive in the canyon.  It can be viewed at Jeeping Salt River Canyon.

The San Carlos Apache Reservation was formed in 1872 and actually was used to gather multiple tribes and reduce raids on white settlers.  There have been many problems over the years and the tribe is still among the poorest communities in the country, despite owning nearly two million acres of land, a very large man-made lake and the successful Apache Gold Casino.

Back in the early 1970s, the San Carlos Apache Tribe built a resort and recreational facility called Seneca Lake at a cost of $524,000 to build, with plans to build an 80 unit motel and possibly a golf course and riding stables the following year. The plans came to a screeching halt when the tribe defaulted on payment to their lenders. It didn't take long for the lenders to go out and take back all of the stuff like restaurant equipment, etc. The place was abandoned in the late 70s, and is now listed as an Arizona ghost town (it also requires a permit to visit).  Almost no one visits, it seems, except a few fishermen who go to the small pond that was created by damming Seneca Creek.

I stopped at Seneca, still without permit, because I wanted to explore and look for Seneca Falls.  There are only a few buildings to remind us of the grand plans the tribe had for taking advantage of its resources.  I did manage to find the waterfall, a narrow stream that drops over 200 feet in three tiers, with impressive views of the cliffs at the edge of Salt River Canyon.


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