Sabino Canyon Recreation Area: Picnic, Camping & Other Facilities – Tucson AZ

Description

Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is in Coronado National Forest at the northeast corner of Tucson AZ. It was developed out of former mining and grazing land in the Santa Catalina Mountains at the behest of the city and Pima County by New Deal agencies, which built access roads, dams and recreational facilities.  Relief workers hired under the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and Works Progress Administration (WPA) all contributed to the park’s improvement. 

A major recreational lake never materialized, as funds ran out in the mid-1930s and, beside, dams in the desert quickly fill with sediment in heavy summer rains and floods.  Nevertheless, Sabino Canyon is so popular today that it can only be entered on foot or by bus up Sabino Canyon road from the Visitors Center.

“The development of the Sabino Canyon recreational area was one of the highest priorities for the City of Tucson and Pima County; funds were assembled from a variety of federal New Deal agencies.  In the fall of 1934 local workers were hired with funds from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration to build Sabino Canyon Road to bring tourists into the mountains and they also began the series of bridges that cross Sabino Creek. WPA funds were secured in 1935 to complete the nine bridges and build [Sabino] dam and lake for swimming.  In 1933 and 1934 Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees from the Madera Canyon camp, F30A, and the Tanque Verde camp, F42A, built Lowell Ranger Station, picnic shelters, stairways, picnic tables and fireplaces. Despite repeated damage from flooding from Sabino Creek, many beautiful stone facilities are still in place today and appreciated by more than one million visitors to the park each year.” (Univ. of Arizona library website – emphasis added)

Two of the CCC-built facilities are shown here: Lowell Ranger station (& garage) and Bear Creek Overlook Picnic Area.  There are several more picnic areas and campgrounds farther up the canyon.

The custodian’s residence and stone toilet are no longer standing (Audretsch & Hunt). It is uncertain whether the stone pillar at the park entrance is New Deal.

There is an informational display on New Deal work in the area at the visitors center.  

Source notes

"The New Deal in Arizona: Connections to Our Historic Landscape," University of Arizona, The New Deal in Arizona Chapter of the National New Deal Preservation Association.
http://www.library.arizona.edu/newdeal/map.html

http://content.library.arizona.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/NewDeal/id/214/rec/33

Robert Audrestsch and Sharon Hunt, 2014. The Civilian Conservation Corps in Arizona. Charleston SC: Arcadia Publishing. pp. 24-25.

Project originally submitted by Shaina Potts on July 31, 2012.
Additional contributions by Susan Ives, Richard A Walker.

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Location Info


Sabino Canyon Visitor Center
Tucson, AZ 85750

Coordinates: 32.3100548, -110.82218139999998

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