October 12, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.
This past summer my wife and I decided to drive out First Water Road and take walk down First Water Trail toward the old Barkley First Water Ranch site. I had worked here as a young man in the 1950’s.
Driving out First Water Road about three quarters of a mile east of Jacob Cross Cut Trail Parking Lot we were astonished to see the old Massacre Ground Trail Head road had been obliterated by heavy equipment. Three huge mounds of rock and dirt were piled along First Water Road to prevent any access of the old road. The road to Massacre Grounds had existed for almost one hundred years. Old Carl Silverlocke and his partner used the road to access their claims around the turn of the century. Prospectors and treasure hunters have been using the road since the 1920’s to visit the Massacre Grounds.
This location was believed to be the alleged site of Peralta Massacre in 1847.It was the spot where the Apache cornered the Peralta mining group and destroyed them.
According to legend the bones of the miners and their burros were spread around the area. Also the Apache allegedly dumped the rich gold ore the Peralta’s had mined on the ground. Over the decades many individuals have claimed finding caches of rich gold ore in the area. Another explanation to the gold ore cache could be they were stashed by high-graders who worked at the fabulously rich Mammoth Mine between 1893-1897.
My father and uncle both talked about driving out along this two-wheeled track of a road in the late 1920’s in an old Ford Model T Touring car. They spent some time searching the area for anything that might have indicated a massacre almost a century before.
During the past fifty-five years I have hauled horses up to the Massacre Ground Trail Head, worked cattle along the base of the mountain and rode the myriad of trails in the foothills of Superstition Mountain. There was an old trail that ran from just below the Massacre Grounds to O’Grady Canyon, then into Old West Boulder and into West Boulder Canyon. From this point the trail went east along West Boulder Canyon by Willow Springs, the old stone corral and eventually over a saddle and down through Carney Springs Canyon. Some old timers referred to this trail as the Quarter Circle U Ranch Trail.
The Massacre Ground Trail Head has been used for years as an access point to the region along the east base of Superstition Mountain. Most of these trails are overgrown from lack of use during contemporary times. When cattle were used on this range the trails were kept open by the cattle moving from one place to another.
Over the years many families would drive out from Tempe, Mesa and even Phoenix to have their family Easter picnic along the Massacre Grounds Trail Head road. My wife and I have been spending evenings out on a small hill near the Massacre Ground Road for the past fifty years. It was an ideal place to set up a telescope to observe the heavens.
About fifteen years ago we noticed were some inconsiderate people were running their four-wheel drive trucks around in the wet desert off the Massacre Ground Road. “Mud bogging” as some people would call it. I told my wife it wouldn’t be long before the Tonto National Forest Service would close this road to all because of an ignorant few.
Each year as we visited the area the extent of the damage increased. We were certain closing this road would soon become a priority for the district ranger’s office. It is by no means cheap to close such a road. We understand why the road was closed and sadly enough we had to agree with such a harsh measurement to protect this fragile desert environment from more damage. Please be aware it is now close and the area is totally restricted to motorized vehicles of any kind.
As far as my wife and I are concerned this was closing a paradise in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains making such areas as Nashi’s Cave, the Massacre Grounds, Massacre Ground Draw, the Salt Tank Mountain Trail, and access to the Northwest Summit Trail far more difficult. We were shocked to find this road closed. When we eventually called the local ranger district they said closing that particular road had been in the management plan for ten years. Here again the majority has suffered in the name of a few ignorant and inconsiderate users of public land.
For those interested in hiking to the Massacre Grounds you will now have to park at the Jacob Cross Cut Trail Parking Lot or at the First Water Parking Lot if you want to save yourself a citation.