Cabeza Prieta


By: Maris Valkass


This was a private trip In Southern Arizona, bordered by Hwy 8 to the north, Mexican border south, Yuma west, and Ajo east. This includes the Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge, Goldwater Gunnery Range, and a Marine Gunnery Range. To enter the area you have to get permission from the Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge in Ajo, and if you wish to go to the Tinajas Altas mountains, you need to get permission from the Marines in Yuma. The permits are subject to the schedules set for the ranges. Holidays usually are open.

The addresses/phone numbers are:

Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge
1611 North Second Ave.
Ajo, AZ 85321 Telephone: (602) 387-6463

Marine Base Telephone: (602) 726-3401
Exit 3 on Hwy 8

Thursday morning at 9:00 we met at Exit 42 on Hwy 8, approximately 40 miles east of Yuma. This is the entrance from the north, we already had the permit. See the inserted map.

We had some problem in finding the dirt road as we did not see any signs, and there were various roads crisscrossing the beginning area. After a while we found it , and their after we did not have any problems. The road in many places was quite sandy, but since all of us had 4-WD vehicles, this did not stop us. I would not recommend driving a standard car because of the sand. This is a very pretty area, the sand is white, as are the granite mountains, and the vegetation is quite lush. This is a saguaro and ocotillo country. We got to the Tule Well by 4:00 pm and started to prepare our Thanksgiving dinner. Needless to say, we had a lot of food, and it all was delicious. After the meal we all went for a night hike.

The Tule Well is a designated campsite. There are tables, windmill pumping water, you can even take a shower. There is also a nice one room cabin where you can escape the elements. It is pointed out that it is not permitted to build wood campfires. Charcoal is permitted.

Friday we were going to drive to Tinajas Altas, and camp the night there. On the way there, we decided to bay the Cabeza Prieta Peak. It is 2559 ft, a gain of about 1200. However, you have to walk five plus miles each way. The peak is attractive, white granite at the bottom, capped with a dark volcanic rock. Just as the name indicates, Dark Head. The hike was very pleasant, and the view was grand. We could see the Sea of Cortez, and the Pinacate Peaks. As you might expect:, Gordon Mcleod had beat us to it, we found his register on the summit. Quite a few people have climbed it. The hike did take quite a bit of time, and we still had to drive 20 miles over a rough road to Tinajas Altas. We had about an hour of sunlight left. I should point out that there are only two roads open to the public: one going east and west, and the other north and south. All other roads are closed.

Tinaias Altas is the name of a mountain range, Just before you get to Yuma. The name means: High Tanks. That is precisely what is located in the range, many natural storage tanks along a waterfall coming down the mountain. These tanks were the objective of many travelers traveling on the Camino Del Diablo on their way to California gold mines. The main reason the road was named the Devil's Highway is the sparsity of water. By the time the travelers got to Tinajas Altas, they have been long out of water, and at their last ounce of strength. There used to be about 50 graves near the tanks, until the vandals destroyed them 20-30 years ago. We had fun climbing on the water fall and seeing these tanks. Many of them had quite a bit of water in.

Our next stop was Papago Well, some 60 miles east. we crossed areas that were pretty barren and fit the name of Camino Del Diablo, but other areas were lush with vegetation and even grass as in a meadow. At Papago Well there were tables and the windmill with a water tank. Next morning, Sunday, the party split up. Some of us went to climb Papago Mountain while others wanted to get an earlier start home. Papago Mountain is about 2160 ft, gain 1100, distance 2 miles each way. It is a nice, pleasant peak. Again Gordon McLeod beat us to it, but his party of two were the only ones that had signed in the last six years.

We exited the refuge through Organ Pipe National Monument. The road went by Kino Peak. The Thanksgiving Holiday was over.

The participants were: Keats Hayden, Bill Gray, Sue Leverton, J Holshuh, Suzanne Mamedalin, Tanya Mamedalin, Comet Mamedalin, Igor Mamedalin, Vic Kenny, Sue Wyman-Henny, Robert Kenny, Terry Turner, Bruce Turner, Barbara Reber, Anna and Maris Valkass.

It was a wonderful Holiday, In a wonderful place, with wonderful friends together.

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