Kiwanis Trail -Then and Now



Saguaro at rest

Saguaro at rest

The Kiwanis Trail was the original access route carved into South Mountain Park. Alarmed by the assault on the highly scenic area by miners, 100 Phoenix citizens petitioned to have the mountainous region declared a national monument. Stephen Mathers was brought in as advisor on this effort and he recommended the group ask the Honorable Carl Hayden to introduce the bill in Congress, which granted the land to the city of Phoenix for $18,000. There was no money left for developing park amenities.

In 1925 civic leaders formed two teams for a friendly competition. Who could build more mountain trail in a given number of hours? By the end of a single morning Kiwanis Trail was shoveled and carved through a gorgeous rocky canyon, from the foot of the new South Mountain Park to the top of Telegraph Pass. Prominent city chefs held their own contests as they prepared a celebratory luncheon for the volunteers.

The mile long ascent through the canyon alternates rock strewn inclines with peaceful meanders along flatter terrain. The trail traces to the shoulder of the canyon and the rain washed arroyo below appears sandy, shaded and mysterious. The northerly view of the modern city skyline would have astounded the park founders.

On this slightly overcast day in middle February the canyon shelters many plants that are revealing early spring blooms. Blue grey brittle bushes crowd the trail and wave cheery yellow blossoms. Shy scorpionweeds dot the ground with royal purple flowers. Michelle and I take turns calling out the spring blooms we see; fagonia, four o’clock, creosote.

A cactus wren lights on a boulder near the trail, a long slender reed drooping from its beak. I imagine the bird scouting the region for nesting sites and building materials, puffed with the importance of the duty. Cactus wrens are continuous builders, working tirelessly on their football shaped nests. Typically the baby wrens will appear in mid March, and breeding continues into September.

We pass a large stone dam about two thirds of the way to the top, installed to slow the rush of runoff down the canyon. We notice another dam close to the base of the trail on our way down. The Civilian Conservation Corps had a camp at South Mountain in the 1930’s and constructed trails, roads, picnic ramadas and these dams.

A pair of rock wrens plays tag among the boulders, where they live off insects sheltering in cracks and crannies. The intact ribs of a large saguaro recline on the hillside, as if the stately cactus became tired and lay down one day, never to stand again. Perhaps this happened during the time the Hohokam shamans pecked petroglyphs into the patina on the walls of these canyons, so long ago.

To see for yourself the beauty of this city park that offers spectacular hiking and close encounters with plants and animals of the region, check out this link.
I think you’ll enjoy it.


One response to “Kiwanis Trail -Then and Now

  1. So, now you can add travel writing to the rest of your successes….so nicely done….wish I had been there with you!

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