Verde Valley Greenway State Park, Cottonwood, AZ

Louise Speaks:  As I have said previously, we are trying to visit all the state parks in Arizona.  We have already seen three today and this is our fourth and final stop of touring State Parks in northern Arizona.  We actually had a hard time to find this state park.  We weren’t even sure if it was a state park as it is just along the river.  We ended up asking a park ranger, and this green belt area where we were searching was in fact the Verde Valley Greenway State Park.

100_9836During the spring of 2007, a group of long-time river activists wanted to take a more “hands-on” approach to protect the longest free-flowing stream in Arizona, the Verde River.  At the same time, Arizona State Parks were seeking a non-governmental partner to assist with conservation and public outreach efforts to support the Verde River Greenway State Natural Area.  Friends of Verde River Greenway emerged as an affiliate of the Arizona State Parks Foundation committing to river restoration and enhancement projects as well as introductory canoe trips on the river.  In partnership with other environmental and civic organizations, FVRG conducted regular weekend volunteer projects to protect and enhance this delicate riparian corridor while promoting stewardship in the community.

100_9840The nearly 180-mile long Verde River is a significant resource in Arizona.  It is one of the desert’s last free-flowing rivers sustaining a large regional wildlife population and a lush riparian community.  In 1986, the state purchased the area that is now known as the Verde River Greenway State Natural Area between the Tuzigoot and Bridgeport bridges.  The Greenway encompasses nearly 480 acres and is six miles long. The 3,300 foot elevation means mild temperatures for hiking along the Verde, canoeing, picnicking, fishing, or just wading in the cool water.  Life along the river changes with the season, giving visitors a glimpse of great blue heron, black hawks, coyotes, raccoons, mule deer, beavers, ducks, frogs, and toads.  The Verde River and surrounding riparian corridor support nearly twenty threatened or endangered species including river otter, southwestern bald eagles, southwestern willow flycatchers, and lowland leopard frogs.

The area along the river is very green, hence the name.  There are many water activities along the river and it is one of Arizona’s free natural treasures.  There is no camping at this location, but Dead Horse State Park is just around the corner.  We visited Dead Horse, but we have not camped there so we are going to wait to blog about Dead Horse, once we have camped there.  Greenway State Park is a fun place to go to get out of the Phoenix heat and just spend a day  at the river doing fun stuffs or doing nothing.  It’s a great park and a great place to visit.

Riordan Mansion State Park, Flagstaff, AZ

Louise Speaks:  As stated previously, we are trying to visit all the state parks in Arizona. Today we are visiting four state parks in northern Arizona.

100_7733This park features the duplex home of Timothy and Michael Riordan, lumber baron brothers who married sisters, Caroline and Elizabeth Metz. The brothers were members of an important Arizona Territorial family who played a role in the development of Flagstaff and northern Arizona and were involved in lumber, railroads, cattle, banking, and politics.  Cooperatively the Riordan brothers built their thirteen thousand square foot mansion in 1904 while Arizona was still a territory.  The home consisted of two similar six thousand square foot wings for each family, connected by a large common room.  Charles Whittlesey  was the architect for the Riordan homes.  He also was the architect  for the El Tovar Hotel  at the Grand Canyon .   Architectural similarities between the structures can be found in the massive stone arches at porch corners as well as exterior elements that reflect the surrounding landscape like log planks, wood shingles, and native stone.  The historic building is an Arizona treasure – a remarkable example of Arts and Crafts style architecture featuring a rustic exterior of log-slab siding, volcanic stone arches, and hand-split wooden shingles. The expansive home has forty rooms, over 13,000 square-feet of living area, and servant’s quarters.

100_7734On November 15, 1978, after over a year of planning and negotiations, Arizona State Parks received a warranty deed conveying the Riordan homes, much of their contents and 5 acres of land surrounding the structures for State Park purposes.  The public opening of the Park was held on August 4, 1983 and only included the Timothy A. Riordan, the east side of the house.  This was the results of cooperative efforts of the family owner, Robert Chambers, who had died in 1980, and the Arizona State Park board members and personnel.  On April 27, 2002 the Michael J. Riordan, the west side of the house was opened for self-guided tours.  The park was scheduled to close on February 22, 2010, for an undetermined amount of time due to state budget cutting, but its contract with the Arizona State Parks system was renewed for another three years under the condition it is self-funded.  The Riordan Action Network Group, a team of local volunteers fund-raises to keep the park open and pay the staff salaries.  The park now maintains very few staff and relies on volunteers to maintain the mansion and provide educational tours.  There is a separate admission to the Riordan Mansion to help with the cost of maintaining the state park.  The visitor center was formally the house’s automobile garage and now houses the history exhibits on the Riordan family.  The courtyard is available for weddings and there are picnic tables near the parking lot to eat a bagged lunch.

2015-09-28-11-05-40The mansion is at the entrance of Northern Arizona University, NAU.  The grounds surrounding the mansion are just beautiful.  The area is covered with tall pine trees and pine cones covered the grounds leading up to the mansion.  Although we are only able to tour one side of the house, you are not able to take pictures and the are no pictures available for purchase or on the internet…so you have to remember what you have seen on the inside of the mansion.  This is definitely a place to come visit.  I just love touring mansions and hearing the history of how these mansions came to being.  I’m not sure how a residence becomes a state park but if that’s what it takes to put this mansion on the map, so be it.

Red Rock State Park, Sedona, AZ

100_9841Louise Speaks:  One of our new goals is to visit all the State Parks in Arizona and camp at all the state parks that offer camping.  Today we are visiting 4 state parks in northern Arizona.  We had just visited the Jerome State Historic Park so our next stop  was in Sedona.  Now Sedona is known for it’s red rocks and canyons, but there is an area in Sedona that has been designated as a Red Rock State Park.

The main mission of this day-use park is the preservation of the riparian habitat along Oak Creek.  Red Rock State Park serves as an environmental education facility for the public and for school or private groups, and provides limited passive recreational opportunities.  Red Rock State Park includes a 1.4-mile stretch of Oak Creek, which upstream flows through the famous Oak Creek Canyon.  The rich area  along the creek supports a diverse array of species.  Many trees live in this habitat area.   Oak Creek supports rare native fish, several frog species, and the threatened Sonora mud turtle.  Away from the creek you will find many dominant trees.   Bird species can also be found in this area.   Lower Oak Creek, which includes the state park, has been designated an Important Bird Area.  Large mammals can also be found in the area.

100_9846This State Park is a fairly new park, only 25 years.  How it became a “State Park” is quite100_9845 interesting.   Red Rock State Park was previously a part of a ranch, Smoke Trail Ranch.  In 1941 it was purchased by  Jack Frye,  then-president of Trans World Airlines,  as a southwestern retreat for himself and his wife Helen.  Helen Frye maintained the property for many years after Jack’s death in 1959.  In the early 1970s she sold 330 acres to a real estate development  company, who planned to build a resort  complex. The deal fell through from lack of funds.  In 1976 the property was transferred to  a religious movement that Helen Frye belonged to, who planned a private retreat for their members. In the fall 100_9843on 1980 a group of friends hiking along Oak Creek were informed by a  representative of t;he religious movement that they were trespassing  on private property. The group happened to include Bruce Babbitt,  then-governor of Arizona.  Concerned about loss of public access along waterways, Babbitt researched the property and noted its potential for a full-fledged state park.  After determining the willingness of all parties involved, Babbitt pursued a three-way land exchange.  The religious organization  would sell 286 acres of the Smoke Trail Ranch to Anamax Mining Company, who would then donate the land to the state in exchange for 3,947 acres  of  property they had been leasing in Pima County.  Since state law only provided for such exchanges within a county, the Arizona Legislature  had to pass new legislation allowing trans-county trades. The enabling law and the transfers were completed in 1981.  Development was slowed by budget cuts in the following years and a new land exchange with the federal government involving Red Rock.  Red Rock State Park opened to the public for the first time and was dedicated on October 19, 1991.

After visiting Sedona, this state park is not much to see.  I guess if you were interested in the trees and the wildlife that live within the park it is worth a visit, but if you want to see red rocks and canyons, go to Sedona itself.