Visit Maricopa County - To the Gila River and Agua Caliente

Leaving Laguna del Hospital, the expedition traveled west through lands of the Opa and Cocomaricopa peoples. They left the Gila River to bypass its large bend to the north, rejoining the river again in the vicinity of Gila Bend. Renewing Anza's friendship with the natives along the river, Anza and the colonists followed the Gila River to Agua Caliente.

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Driving Directions for Auto Route

Interstate 8 (I-8) is the auto route from Pinal County. A combination of dirt and gravel roads, however, follow the historic route more closely. These include highway 238 from Mobile to Gila Bend and roads from Gila Bend past the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site to Hyder. To reach the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site, drive west on I-8 and exit at Painted Rock Dam Rd. (Exit 102) approximately 12.5 miles west of Gila Bend. Travel north (paved) 10.7 miles to Rocky Point Rd. (unpaved). The site is 0.6 miles west of Painted Rock Dam Rd. on Rocky Point Rd. To most easily continue to Yuma County, travel west on I-8.

Hiking/Biking Ideas

Immediately to the southeast and northeast of Gila Bend is the Sonoran Desert National Monument with its Maricopa Wilderness. A hiking trail is located near highway 238 between Mobile and Gila Bend in the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness. The BLM's Painted Rock Petroglyph Site has trails, camping and an Anza interpretive site.

Points of Interest

Expedition Campsites
  • Gila Bend - Expedition Camps #26-28
    At about one in the afternoon on November 7, 1775, the expedition left their "Lake of the Hospital" and made a tardeada west to a dry arroyo (Camp #26). A tardeada was two short marches between two places that had water that could not be made in one normal day's travel. The encampment for the night between the two spots (in this case, Camp #26) was without water other than what they were carrying. Anza remarked that their camp was in the neighborhood of the Pass of the Cocomaricopas. Today, west of this camp and somewhat parallel to Highway 238, the Sonoran Desert National Monument (BLM) has a trail where one can hike a portion of the second stage of the tardeada. On the 8th of November, the expedition camped at a village they called San Simón y Judas de Uparsoytac (Camp #27). They rested here until November 11, in part because a woman who had a stillborn baby (on November 2) needed rest. This gave the colonists time for some needed chores, as recorded by Font, "...Since we were camped on the bank of the river, the people were able to wash their clothing." While there, and again further on, Anza noted seeing more American Indians than during his first visit (1774), and attributed this to the peace with the Yuma people (Quechan) he helped secure during that time. Expedition Camps #27 and #28 were most likely located within the Gila Bend Indian Reservation, home today to the San Lucy District of the Tohono O'odham. Fortaleza, an important spiritual site, is located on top of a volcanic escarpment on the reservation in the vicinity of the town of Gila Bend. The site was probably settled about 1200 A.D. by migrants from the Tucson area, and contained three large reinforced adobe ceremonial chambers and rooms grouped in social units of two or three houses.
  • Petroglyph Site - Expedition Camps #29-31
    The expedition continued west camping at three villages of the Maricopa peoples the last they called Agua Caliente, for the hot spring of water there. Here, Anza selected a native, he called Carlos, as Governor of the Cocomaricopa tribe (Maricopa) who later traveled with the expedition to verify the peace with the tribe in Yuma. Today, the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site (BLM land) is within the expedition's historic corridor. The site, on the National Register of Historic Places, offers a fine example of early petroglyphs etched on a small mound of black rocks. It also includes interpretive panels on the Anza Trail, as well as camping and water. Many other trails were near the petroglyph site, including those of the Mormon Battalion and the Butterfield Overland Mail. Near expedition Camp #31, an Interstate 8 roadside rest stop at Sentinel provides an opportunity for visitors to reflect on the Agua Caliente camp and to orient oneself to the Gila River camps.

Additional Resources

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