Tuesday, March 31, 1998

A&E TV Explores the Superstitions

March 31, 1998 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved. 

The Arts and Entertainment Channel recently sent a Greystone Communications film crew into the Superstition Mountain Wilderness to explore the history and the beauty of the region.

The goal of the film producer, Rick Davis, was to present the history and spectacular beauty of the region. Davis found the history of the region extremely complex and with varied opinion. He and his staff made every effort to gather all the information about the area they could. They worked with the Arizona Historical Foundation, Salt River Project, Tonto National Forest, the Superstition Mountain Museum and many local residents. After several months of research filming began on Tuesday, January 6, 1998.

The first trip into the field was to a place called the Paint Mine, on a divide between Boulder and La Barge Canyon. The subject here was the old Paint Mine and the towering façade of Malapai Mountain. The next day was spent in Needle Canyon at Al Morrow’s old camp and near the site where Adolph Ruth’s skull was found on December 9, 1931. On the third day, the film crew traveled to Weaver’s Needle. It was in the shadows of Weaver’s Needle much of the contemporary history about the region was molded. The final day was spent on top of Black Top Mesa and in East Boulder Canyon. Black Top Mesa provided spectacular panoramic views of the Superstition Wilderness Area. All this was made possible by cooperation from the officials of the Tonto National Forest and the O.K. Corral Pack Outfitters.

Greystone Communication film crews returned to Apache Junction on Wednesday, January 21, 1998, to do a special segment with United States Senator John McCain at Lost Dutchman State Park. Senator McCain was the co-sponsor, with Congressman Udall, in setting aside fifty-five more sections of land for the Superstition Wilderness and the finalizing of the 1964 National Wilderness Act. McCain visited the Superstition Wilderness with members of the Superstition Mountain Historical Society in 1983, after the bill was passed in the U.S. Congress.

There are many positives and negatives about filming the history and beauty of this region. One positive includes visual access for the many mentally and physically handicapped who would otherwise never have an opportunity to experience the history and beauty we enjoy so much. Of course, the most common negative is, the documentary will bring more people to this wilderness and eventually ruin it for all of us.

The growth rate of the Salt River Valley is one of the highest in the nation. The reality is, controlled access will be the only way to manage this wilderness. Management controls may range from access fees, parking fees to permits in the future. 

Some day, the only access for the public may be through documentaries about the history and the beauty of this fragile desert wilderness. We are most fortunate that earlier planners preserved this 159,780 acre wilderness for future generations of Americans to enjoy. Future management will be a tremendous challenge for those in public office and those responsible for the management of this area. The lifestyle we moved to Apache Junction for is being rapidly consumed by high density development. The desert we know will be gone and the only reminder of it will be the lands preserved within the Tonto National Forest, such as the Superstition Wilderness Area.

A&E’s documentary on the History of the Superstition Mountain region aired Sunday, March 29, 1998 at 4:00 p.m. The producers of this film wanted to preserve the beauty, history and mystique of this wilderness. We have many friends who will enjoy this documentary but will never step a foot into the wilderness. I am sure they will appreciate this opportunity to view the history, legend and beauty of the Superstition Wilderness Area. After all, the history of this land is its people.