Anza Trail Blog

Anza Days 2014 is Coming! Highlights Include New Exhibits at La Canoa

by by Joy Mehulka, Geographic & Multimedia Division Manager for Pima County Natural Resources, Parks & Recreation

Tagged as:   Arizona , Historic Sites , Pima County , Pinal County , Santa Cruz County , Volunteers , living history

Anza Day at La Canoa

The Raúl M. Grijalva Canoa Ranch Conservation Park, or Canoa Ranch as it is commonly known, is the newest addition to the month of Anza Days commemorations in the Santa Cruz River Heritage Area.

Our 2nd annual Anza Day takes place Sunday, October 26, at the Historic Hacienda de la Canoa, the former headquarters for the ranch.

During Anza Day, Pima County will unveil a new permanent exhibit at the Historic Hacienda focusing on the families of the Anza Expedition, made possible by the support of the National Park Service.

La Canoa and the Anza Expedition of 1775-76

At La Canoa in the evening of October 23, 1775, Anza Expedition member Mariá Ignacia Manuela Piñuelas Féliz went into labor and delivered a baby boy. Complications from the birth arose and she died at three in the morning of October 24. Hers was the only death to occur during the expedition. The baby boy and her other six children survived the journey but the little boy later perished in San Francisco.

The morning of October 25, rain made it difficult for the expedition to pack and procure enough water before leaving La Canoa. One cannot help but wonder if the tragedy of Manuela’s death and the inclement weather was seen by the expedition members as an ominous portent of the difficult journey ahead or if death in childbirth, storms, and other daily obstacles were unfortunate, but common, life events in the late eighteenth century.

The settlers stopped at Mission San Xavier del Bac on October 25, 1775 to mourn Manuela but also to celebrate the marriages of three couples and the next day, set out on their remarkable journey.


Anza Day 2014 at Historic Hacienda de la Canoa, Oct. 26

Anza Day will open with a special traditional blessing by members of the Tohono O’odham Nation, followed by basket weaving demonstrations and a sale of their beautiful creations.

The Anza Trail Coalition of Arizona Color Guard will ride from the Elephant Head Trailhead along the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail and make a colorful and exciting entrance, followed by other equestrians and visitors dressed for the occasion.

Other activities will include traditional games and children’s activities, baby animals with their 4-H owners, historic equipment presented by Power from the Past, heritage produce, tours of the ranch, lectures by Arizona Humanities Scholars, a chuck wagon serving lunch, cowboy coffee boiled over a campfire, and cobbler.

Canoa Ranch is located between Green Valley and Amado, Ariz., on the east side of Interstate 19. The property’s first recorded name is La Canoa as it was referred to in the 1700s when the Juan Bautista de Anza Expedition camped there on their first night out from Tubac Presidio.

The property, preserved by Pima County, is a 4,800-acre remnant of the original 1821 San Ignacio de la Canoa Spanish land grant that covered 17,000 acres and much of what are now the communities of Green Valley and Sahuarita. The conservation park is a microcosm of the history of Southern Arizona and reflects the lives and works of indigenous people along with men and women of Spanish, Mexican, European, African, and Asian descent. Running through the property from south to north is the Santa Cruz River, a source of water and a natural travel route in historic times followed by the Juan Bautista de Anza Expedition on the initial leg of their journey.

Historic Links Along the Anza Trail Strengthened through Cooperation and Celebration

Anza Day at La Canoa is among a series of events in October held at throughout Southern Arizona to commemorate the Anza Expedition of 1775-76:


October 4 - Anza Day at Las Lagunas de Anza, Nogales, AZ

This year, the Las Lagunas Anza Day Fandango will be held on Saturday, October 4. Las Lagunas de Anza in Nogales, Ariz., is the first historic Anza Expedition campsite within what is now the United States. The colonists from present-day Mexico stopped here just two weeks into their journey, still wary of Apache raids and the longer route ahead. Las Lagunas continues to play an important role for the Anza Trail as home base for the Anza Trail Ambassadors, a youth development program that combines culture and history with environmental stewardship.

October 18 - Anza Day at Tubac and Tumacácori

On Saturday, October 18, one of the highlights of the month-long Anza Day commemorations will be the colorful reenactment ride on horseback from Tumacácori to Tubac. Riders in period dress mount up at 9AM at the Fiesta Grounds north of Tumacácori National Historical Park. Armed with shields, leather armor, and nine-foot lances, the soldiers on horseback practice their skills on the grounds. Afterwards, the riders, along with other participants in historic garb, will proceed to the Tumacácori Mission Church for a 10AM mass and blessing of the expedition. Following the mass, the group led by Colonel Anza, re-enacted by Bill Islas, departs Tumacácori at 11AM for its 4-mile journey along the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail to the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park and Museum.

Children’s activities at the Tubac Presidio include calligraphy and coloring, leather work, paper flower and basket making between 11AM and 3PM. Starting at 11AM musicians and dancers will entertain at the Tubac Presidio, including a performance by La Paloma Folklorico dancers, until the much anticipated “big event” of the Anza riders’ noon arrival. After a horseback presentation, the riders will dismount and eat lunch and mingle. Beginning around 12:30PM guitarist and artist-in-residence Ted Ramirez will perform. The riders will describe soldiers’ uniforms, civilian women’s dress, and specialized horse tack of the colonial period. The riders depart about 2:45PM, and ride up to the steps of St. Ann's Church where the priest will bless them. With mariachis playing, the riders move off for San Francisco with shouts of Vaya con Dios! and Adios! For more information call Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, 520-398-2252 or Tubac Chamber of Commerce, 520-398-2704. FREE admission to the Tubac Presidio.


October 26 - Anza Day at Canoa Ranch

See the article above for information about the 2nd Annual Anza Day at the Historic Hacienda de la Canoa.

October 26 - Pinal County Commemoration at Picacho Peak State Park

Anza Trail volunteers will be commemorating the expedition’s passage through Pinal County with a table at
Picacho Peak State Park (near the Mesquite Ramada) from 11AM to 5PM on Sunday, Oct. 26. Contact Mary Aquirre Vogler (, 520-251-1658) for more information.

Recently, representatives from several historic and cultural sites in Southern Arizona met to coordinate their educational projects and celebrations related to the Anza Trail. Antony Sedgwick, Director of Santa Fe Ranch; Arlyn Johnson, Project Manager, and Maria Murietta, Office Manager, for Las Lagunas de Anza; Bob Love, Superintendent of Tumacácori National Historic Park; Shaw Kinsley, Director of Tubac Presidio State Historic Park; Robert Vaughn, Canoa Ranch Manager; and Joy Mehulka, Geographic and Multimedia Division Manager for Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation had their first highly successful meeting to coordinate resources and strengthen Anza Expedition activities.

The group agreed that having each site represent one facet of the expedition, as suggested by Naomi Torres, Superintendent of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, would serve to further link the sites. Las Lagunas represents the foundation of land and water, Tumacacori emphasizes the importance of religious faith, Tubac Presidio recreates military strength, and La Canoa (Canoa Ranch) highlights the bonds of family.



Anza Day at La Canoa
The Anza Trail Coalition of Arizona Color Guard at the first Canoa Ranch Anza Day in 2013. Photo by Mark Sexton.

Anza Day at La Canoa
Captain Anza, portrayed by Bill Islas, discusses historic vs. modern methods of transportation with Dick Blake at Anza Day at Canoa Ranch in 2013. Photo by Valerie Samoy.

Anza Day at La Canoa
Captain Anza, portrayed by Bill Islas, at Anza Day 2013 at Canoa Ranch. Photo by Valerie Samoy.

Anza Day at La Canoa
Rick Collins and his trusty mule demonstrate the equipment of an Anza Expedition soldier at Anza Day at Canoa Ranch in 2013. Rick reproduces the historic cueras, or vests, and other leather equipment for the color guard. Photo by Mark Sexton.

« Back to Blog Home