Monday, December 14, 2009

Maiden Prayer Glen (Reavis Fall)

December 14, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The rugged Superstition Wilderness Area preserves some of Arizona’s most beautiful natural wonders. One of these natural wonders is a one hundred and ninety-six-foot waterfall near Castle Dome Peak. This waterfall can be found in a deep canyon about three miles north of the old Reavis Ranch.

The water from this fall tumbles over a basalt escarpment that traverses the flow of Reavis Creek. Reavis Creek is the main feeder stream for the fall. Most of the water that flows down Reavis Creek originates from seeps, springs, and ground water that percolate down through aquifers that underlie the region. Water flows over the fall year around except during extended periods of drought. This would probably classify the fall as intermittent. Reavis Fall is one of Arizona’s highest falls.

A trip to Reavis Fall is not for the novice hiker or horse person because the terrain is extremely rough with many deeply dissected canyons with perpendicular walls. The shortest and safest route to Reavis Fall is from the Reavis Ranch Trail Head three miles south of State Route 88, the Apache Trail. Often this parking lot is full on the weekend during the winter months. A trip into the waterfall requires about three and half hours on the trail. The last time I was over the trail it was in extremely poor condition and some areas were almost impassible.

Photographing this isolated fall can be a challenge even for a good photographer because of the precipitous cliffs, dense undergrowth, cold water, lighting and poor camera angles. Walking up Reavis Creek is a nightmare of dense underbrush, large boulders, numerous water crossings and always the possibility of a flash flood. Upon arriving at the base of the fall a photographer will encounter other problems such as mist resulting from the action of the water flowing over the basalt ledge. A lot of the water turns to mist in its almost two hundred foot drop from the top of the fall. The second major problem at the base of the fall is adequate lighting. Light conditions at the base of the fall are poor under the best of conditions.

The National Registry of Place Names never officially named this fall. The name of the fall does not appear on any official maps produced by the county, state or federal government. It is quite apparent the name used today for the fall originates from an earlier settler who lived here between 1874 and1896. His name was Elisha Marcus Reavis.

The naming of the fall may have been ignored in a deliberate attempt to protect the fall from too many visitors or maybe just an oversight on behalf of forest service or U.S.G.S cartographers. Some individuals I have interviewed over the years believed the forest service wasn’t aware of the existence of the fall. This is highly unlikely because the original goal of the forest preserve (Tonto National Forest) was to protect the watershed of the Salt River drainage system. Periodicals indicate there was knowledge of the fall as early as 1878. Military records indicate the fall was known during campaigns in the area between 1872 and 1874. Elisha Reavis told friends about the fall and even showed the fall to a few hearty souls as early as 1878.

Boy Scouts from the Theodore Roosevelt Council traveled to Camp Geronimo, Pineair, Reavis Ranch for summer camp on June 16, 1922. While at Camp Geronimo the scouts were involved in a variety of activities, including hiking. Several of the scouts hiked to Reavis Fall (or Maiden Prayer Glen as it was called by some of the scout leaders). It was such 1922 Arizona’s Governor Thomas Campbell visited the scouts in camp at Pineair. Seventeen years later the Department of Agriculture would authorize the forming of the Superstition Primitive Area.

To describe Reavis Fall area is like painting a picture of a true mountain “Garden of Eden” in the heart of the desert. The area includes Cottonwoods, Sycamores and numerous climbing vines at the base of the fall. Juniper, Pinyon pine and a few Ponderosa pines can be found at the top of the fall. At the base of the fall there is a large plunge pool measuring twenty to thirty feet across and four to five feet deep when there is sufficient flow that dominates the area. The water in this pool is usually crystal clear except during runoff after a major storm in the area.

Visitors called the area “Maiden Prayer Glen” in the 1920’s using the name to describe the beauty of this region. This was another name for an interesting landmark in the Superstition Wilderness Area.

Author’s note: The Theodore Roosevelt Boy Scout Council’s first Camp Geronimo was held at Pineair along Reavis Creek seventeen years before the region became part of the Superstition Primitive Area in 1939.