Follow the ancient Yavapai through the Sonoran Desert - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Follow the ancient Yavapai through the Sonoran Desert

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Posted: Friday, March 9, 2007 5:36 am | Updated: 8:07 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

It’s hard to imagine anyone surviving in the Sonoran Desert before air conditioning and swimming pools.

But the Yavapai and other native groups managed to do it for generations. Learn the secrets of their success during the Yavapai Desert Secrets tour hosted Saturday by Desert Caballeros Museum in Wickenburg.

“We’re not going where there is any housing,” says Joe Stevens, chairman of the museum’s education committee and the tour’s guide. “We’re going to see beautiful, rolling Sonoran Desert with lots of cactus.”

The tour focuses on the Yavapai, who are descendants of the Yumanspeaking people known as the Pai, and how they moved seasonally from the areas surrounding Wickenburg, Prescott and Gila Bend surviving on plants.

“I wouldn’t call them nomadic,” says Stevens. “But they did forage and move from place to place as food became available.”

In Wickenburg, the Yavapai planted squash by the Hassayampa River and would return to harvest it. They also harvested the fruits of cactuses such as the saguaro, the buck horn and prickly pear.

Stevens will lead the tour through Box Canyon, a riparian preserve on the Hassayampa River. Participants are encouraged to bring comfortable walking shoes. The next desert tour hosted by the museum will be the Desert Blooms Adventure tour on April 5.

Yavapai Desert Secrets

What: A motorized tour of the land once occupied by the Yavapai

When: 9 a.m. to noon Saturday

Where: Desert Caballeros Museum, 21 N. Frontier St., Wickenburg

Cost: $75. Reservation required.

Information: (928) 684-2272 or e-mail

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