Papago Park Facts

Highest Point
Elevations rise up to 1,700 feet but these elevations are on Buttes not accessible by trail. Developed trails primarily are around 1,200 feet above sea level.

The history of Papago Park begins back in 1879 with the area being designated as an Indian reservation for the Maricopa and Pima tribes.

On Jan. 31, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed Proclamation No. 1262 declaring the area as the Papago Saguaro National Monument. It remained until April 7, 1930, when Congress passed an act that was amended on July 7, 1932, abolishing the monument.

During World War II, Papago Park housed a German prisoner of war camp. The camp was occupied from 1943 to 1946 by over 400 prisoners of war. After the war, the camp was used as a Veterans Administration Hospital from 1947 to 1951 and the District Headquarters for Arizonaís largest Army Reserve unit from 1953 to 1966.

Today, the Army Reserve Motor Park at 64th and Oak streets retains the role it held in the prisoner of war camp. Also, the campís Officers Club now serves as the Scottsdale Elks Lodge.

By 1958, almost all of the parkland was within the boundaries of the city of Phoenix. Senate Bill 144, introduced in the 23rd Legislature, paved the way for purchase of Papago Park by the city of Phoenix. Papago Park was officially sold to the city of Phoenix on Feb. 25, 1959.

The park today covers 1,200 acres and has numerous picnic sites with ramadas, tables, grills, water and electricity. The park also contains fishing lagoons and bike paths as well as a zoo, a botanical garden, fire museum and a golf course. Two of east Phoenix's best known landmarks are in the park, Hole-In-The-Rock, a natural geologic formation; and Hunt's Tomb, a white pyramid burial place of Arizona's first governor.

Geology, flora and fauna
The red rock (iron oxide-hematite) of Papago Park was formed six to 15 million years ago. The Papago Buttes are a sedimentary formation. The holes, called tafoni, in Hole-In-The-Rock were formed by water breaking up the minerals in the rock. Throughout the park, a thin veneer of sand and rock overlie a bedrock landform, with some areas worn away to reveal the outcropping of bedrock.

At Hole-in-the-Rock, a naturally eroded rock formation of arkosic conglomerate sandstone, the Hohokam noticed that a hole in the ceiling of the rock shelter creates a ray of light that changes positions on the floor throughout the year, depending on the seasonal movements of the sun across the sky. Subsequently, the Hohokam marked the occurrence of the summer solstice by grinding a bedrock metate slick at the location where the ray of light falls during that day around noontime. The winter solstice is marked by the ray of light interacting with a natural seam in the bedrock. The Hohokam also marked the equinoxes, the seasonal halfway point between the summer and winter solstices with a bedrock metate slick. Furthermore, boulders located near the Hole-in-the-Rock appear to provide additional solstice and equinox markers. Although more research is needed to better understand the Hohokam's knowledge of astronomy, Hole-in-the-Rock is a significant example of the cultural accomplishments of these amazing desert people.
Photo of Hole-in-the-Rock

Because of urban encroachment, large mammals normally are not seen in the park. Smaller animals including jackrabbits, ground squirrels and mice, as well as a variety of birds populate the park.

Last Modified on 10/16/02