Visit Pinal County - To the Casa Grande and the Gila Peoples

The expedition followed the Santa Cruz River Valley for several miles before turning north just past Picacho Peak to reach known sources of water. Font and Anza made a detour to survey the Casa Grande ruins. After following the Gila for several miles through what is now the Gila River Indian Community, they camped at Laguna del Hospital (Camp #25). They then continued west, bypassing a bend in the Gila River.

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Driving Directions for Auto Route

From Pima County, drive northwest on I-10. To visit Picacho Peak State Park take exit 219. To visit the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, take the Coolidge exit and follow the signs to the park entrance off Arizona Route 87/287. To continue to Maricopa County, drive west on I-8 to Gila Bend.

Hiking/Biking Ideas

Hiking is possible at Picacho Peak State Park and within the National Monuments: Casa Grande Ruins and Sonoran Desert. Some bicycle trails exist along frontage roads along the auto route.

Points of Interest

Expedition Campsites
  • Picacho Peak State Park - Expedition Camp #21
    On October 29, 1775, Father Font describes that the expedition camped at a place "a little beyond a picacho or peak which the Indians called Tacca." Anza called the place, "the flat of El Aquituni." Upon leaving the next day, Anza comments on a, "...lack of water, any of which is found only by rare accident. Nevertheless, no dissatisfaction whatever has been shown by the people who have made the march, and this is a thing to marvel at, especially in the women and children, and their patience under the hardships is an indication of the contentment with which they are accepting their lot." Picacho Peak was often used as a landmark. During the 17th century, the Jesuit priest Father Kino mentioned Picacho Peak in records of his journeys. In 1846, the Mormon Battalion, on their way to California to fight in the war with Mexico, constructed a wagon road through Picacho Pass. Today, Picacho Peak State Park is found a little west of Anza's camp. An Anza Trail interpretive exhibit is found on the west side of the park overlooking a campsite area and the Anza route through the Santa Cruz River valley.
  • Casa Grande - Expedition Camps #22-25
    As noted by Anza and Font, expedition Camps #22 to #25 were at Pima villages, where the expedition was well-received and cared for, as illustrated in what Font wrote, "...These Pima Indians of the Gila are gentle and of good heart, and to show their appreciation for our coming they begged permission from the commander [Anza] to dance, and then they went from tent to tent of the soldiers dancing, the women linked together in their fashion." The campsites are within the boundaries of the Gila River Indian Community today. The Anza expedition camped approximately five miles to the northwest of the Casa Grande, and on October 31, 1775, Font and Anza visited the ruins there in order to check the accuracy of Father Kino's prior descriptions and measurements. At this time Font recorded the Bitter Man story as told to him by a Pima native. The Casa Grande ruins, which translates as the "Big House", date to around A.D. 900-1450 and include an ancient Hohokam farming village as well as the four-story Great House. The ruins were the first archaeological preserve in the United States and are today located within Casa Grande Ruins National Monument (1100 Ruins Dr., Coolidge, AZ). They are about an hour drive from either Phoenix or Tucson. The Gila Indian Center museum is located along Interstate 10 at the Casa Blanca Interchange. The Gila Heritage Park, run by the tribe, features self-guided tours of traditional Indian homes including the Pima, Maricopa, Papago and the Apache. Camp #25 (November 3-6) was called Laguna del Hospital because the sickness experienced there by the animals as well as two women. One of the women, who was pregnant, was given medicines.

Additional Resources

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