Fort Mojave Road



Fort Mojave Road


Mojave Road






By: Russ Leadabrand

IN THE MIDDLE 1800s, the Pah-Ute Indians in the southern portion of the Great Basin made frequent and sanguine forays against the white settlers, emigrants, military and miners in the area from Fort Mojave on the Colorado River, all the way into the San Bernardino Valley.

As a result, a series of U.S. Army forts, camps, outposts and redoubts were built in the lonesome desert areas, each situated reasonably close to a supply of water. Here, at these small, isolated camps, the military waged a curious kind of warfare with the Indians.

The effectiveness of the campaigns, the value of the battles and seiges, are still being argued by learned and insistent historians. But of greater interest is the preservation of the history—and hopefully the sites themselves—of the various outposts that reach from San Bernardino out to the Colorado River. (The old Fort Mojave Road, according to our experts of this month’s column, claim the road reached from San Pedro, California, to Prescott, Arizona. But for the purpose of this discussion, the road between San Bernardino and Fort Mojave on the Colorado is most interesting.)

Dennis Casebier








Dennis Casebier and artifacts found at the site of old Camp Rock Spring.


Not too much has been written about these military outposts in the Mojave Desert, almost no work has ever been done in the national archives.

Dennis Casebier changed all that.

Casebier was a Marine stationed at the the Marine Corps base near Twentynine Palms in the period 1953-1956. Not a Californian. he was fascinated by the desert. In 1956 he returned to school in Kansas, came back to California a physicist working for the U.S. Navy and now stationed in the San Bernardino area, and with his new wife started exploring the desert. He decided early that he would concentrate on the Mojave Road. His work took him frequently to Washington, D.C. where, at night, he poured through the national archives seeking information about these tiny, remote military outposts that flourished in a period from 1860 to 1869.

The research paid off. Today he is considered the doyen, the expert on this area and these outposts.

He spends much time at the sites, knows the owners of the private land that some of the sites are situated upon, knows the desert people, and has made good and lasting friends. Dennis Casebier is 38. Thus far his research has resulted in the publication of four books on the general area. The first, Camo El Dorado, Arizona Territory, was published by the Arizona Historical Foundation. Three subsequent books are all on the outposts of the Mojave Road which Casebier published himself in limited editions. These are Carleton’s Pah-Ute Campaign, The Battle of Camp Cody, and finally, Camp Rock Springs. California.

Projected are future books on Fort Pah- Ute, another Camp Cady volume, (there are many subjects for books about Camp Cady), and others of the outposts.

Casebier lists the points of interest from the crossing of the Mojave north of Cajon Pass toward the Colorado thus:

1. Lane Ranch, near the site of Oro Grande, a frequent stopover site but not a military outpost.

2. Forks of the Road. Where the Mojave and Old Salt Lake City Trails forked ,nine miles west of Camp Cady.

3. Old Camp Cady, established briefly in I860, active again in 1865-70, the most important military outpost in the Mojave Desert.

4. The Caves of Afton Canyon. A trading post was once located here.

5. Soda Springs, in I860 called Hancock’s Redoubt.!On west edge of Soda Lake near spot of present-day Zzyzx.

6. Marl Springs, 1876 to 1878. It was 35 miles between water to Marl Springs in those days, a long dry crossing.

7. Pah-Ute Spring, higher, c o o l e r , 5000 feet. Lots of free flowing water here. A fantastic archeological site that has been heavily vandalized. Active 1867-68. Once called Camp Beale in days of camel crossings.

8. Fort Mojave, with adjacent Hardyville. An Indian school stood here once. All buildings gone, only sidewalks and foundations remain, even graveyard heavily vandalized.

And beyond Fort Mojave toward Prescott, Casebier has pounds of documentation about other forts, camps and outposts.

To single out one specific desert history subject and to follow through on it to the end, is important for us all—students, and scholars and armchair adventurers. Dennis Casebier has done this in a job of incredible dedication and zeal, and at no little cost to himself. He deserves the highest kind of credit for this effort which will, for years to come, serve everyone here.

I was introduced to the labors of Dennis G. Casebier by my old desert buddy, E. I. “Eddie” Edwards, lately of Joshua Tree and more recently of Sun City.

Casebier, in a recent conversation, has told me that there are a number of interesting and significant military sites adjacent or approaching the Army posts that are on private land.

Casebier has made good friends in the desert during the years he has researched the Mojave Road and has permission to examine the sites on private land. Sometime in the late summer or fall of this year he has scheduled a metal locator search on these private land areas.

Casebier told me that if he finds significant articles he will notify concerned museum people and will give me a report to share here with you.

He is a vigorous campaigner for protection of all the old military sites. He would like to see them guarded against vandalism and unauthorized digging and activities that would hamper later, serious archeological work.

The U.S. Army outposts along the old Mojave Road are now being protected, as far as written history is concerned, by Dennis Casebier.

He, and I, would like to see these ancient, remote, poignant outposts in the hostile Mojave preserved as state parks or a string of National Monuments, or something equally secure, so that visitors here in those years in the far future can understand the march of living history that once was enacted so violently here during the various Pah-Ute campaigns across the lonesome California desert.


Wiley Well: After two decades, still the desert’s best gem-mineral field

From the November, 1960 issue of Desert Magazine
Wiley Well: After two decades, still the desert’s best gem-mineral field




By: Glenn and Martha Vargas
TWENTY-FIVE miles east and south of Blythe, California, is the Wiley Well District—one of the great Desert Southwest semi-precious gem fields. The well itself was dug just after the turn of the century, and for many years was an important watering place for desert travelers until paved highways replaced the pioneer trails. Wiley Well then became a source of water for livestock run in the region during years of good rainfall.
We have visited this area countless times in the past 15 years, and on only two occasions have we failed to see other rockhounds in the field. It is not uncommon to see a dozen parties on a rock search, and sometimes the number of amateur mineralogists at Wiley Well runs into the hundreds.
Such popularity is wonderful, but it has its drawbacks. At least two of the more prominent collecting fields developed by rockhounds in this district have had mining claims filed on them, and vigorous attempts made by the claim holders to keep collectors away. We have always felt that areas discovered and developed by groups of amateur hobbyists should always remain free and open to those pursuing the pleasures of the collecting hobby.
Perhaps the solution to this problem is the creation, either under county, state or federal sponsorship, of a Mineral Collectors’ Reserve at Wiley Well. The land here is nearly all in the public domain. Logically, Wiley Well itself could become the headquarters area for such a Reserve. Its water is potable, though somewhat hard. The well area abounds in good natural campsites, and is an ideal base from which to make short trips to the various collecting fields nearby.
We have expressed this idea on occasion; at first it received poor response from hobbyists. But times have changed. More and more good fields have been closed to collectors for one reason or another. The West is filling up with people—even the vast desert is no longer safe from the threat of being over-run. Of course, it will be many years before there is a hot-dog stand at Wiley Well—but the time will come—and the time to act is now, not after it is too late. We are very interested in hearing from others on this subject, and letters addressed to us, c/o Desert Magazine, Palm Desert, Calif., will receive careful attention. Let us hear what you think of the idea.
COON HOLLOW: Fire agate is a new gem material, having been known for less than 20 years. The first specimens we saw were displayed by Sam Payson of El Centra. He showed them to us one night in 1945 when we were camped at Wiley Well. Payson didn’t know what they were, and was hoping that we did—but the only thing we could tell him about the stones was that they were beautiful. He showed them to others, and the rush was on to what became known as Coon Hollow for the material that was dubbed fire agate.
By the time Randall Henderson wrote about the area in the March ’54 Desert Magazine, many nice pieces had been collected there. In fact, the material was so popular that by ’54 a few mining claims had been filed at Coon Hollow. Within three more years, claims were staked over almost the entire fire agate ground. The situation became such that claimants were carrying guns in order to keep collectors off. But, the “miners” soon found that the material was not plentiful enough to return a profit. Rockhounds want to dig their own baubles out of the ground. Few hobbyists feel inclined to pay for material that previously was theirs for the taking. Most of the claimants have drifted away, and today only a few remain. Recently we read a notice that one of them has re-opened his mine to rockhounds; all that he asks is that each visitor sign for any digging he does so that this work can apply toward the yearly assessment work necessary to keep the claim alive.
Now that the area is again open, we heartily recommend it to all hobbyists. Material is plentiful, and one need walk only a short distance from his automobile to find it.
The road to Coon Hollow leads east from a point about three miles south of Wiley Well. After you have gone a mile on this side-road, a camp area is reached. Here the road forks, the left branch going up a hill a short distance to a number of diggings. We usually take the right fork, driving ]/i-mile to a turnout near the top of a slightly sloping grade. Others in our party have found nice pieces at the parking place, but hunting is better in the wash to the northeast and on the hills beyond.
Look for knobs of chalcedony with a deep orange to chocolate color. The latter color usually indicates the best specimens.
Fire agate is very interesting material. Actually, it is a form of chalcedony made-up of thin bands of microscopic quartz crystals. These crystal bands, usually laid down in hot solutions, are only roughly parallel, and usually take the form of knobs. At some point during this band formation, a layer of iron oxide in the form of the mineral limonite is laid down and then covered with more layers of quartz crystals. This layer of limonite may be only a very few thousandths of an inch thick, and as such tends to show an irridescent play of colors. If the chalcedony (quartz crystal layer) over it is clear, this irridescence can easily be seen. Careful grinding and polishing of this clear layer down to, but not into, the limonite layer produces the fire agate stones.
The chalcedony at Coon Hollow is of a milky-to-clear material generously cut through with color layers ranging from yellow through brown. Naturally, all of the material does not have fire, but these banded pieces often produce very nice stones when cut across the bands.
On rare occasion we have found small chalcedony nodules or geodes at Coon Hollow. Those that are hollow when cut are usually lined with tiny (drusy) quartz crystals. Sometimes the crystals are in the form of stalactites. Best of all, some of these geodes will show the wavy colored banding in the cut walls. This indeed can be a treasure!
Much of the rough chalcedony is lying on the hillsides and in the washes as float, having eroded out of the slopes above. This can be good material, but it is not as plentiful as in the past. Digging for fire agate is the most profitable means of gathering material. If you dig in one of the open claims, the problem of where the chalcedony is located is usually solved for you. But, you will have to do a bit of mineral detective work if you dig in undisturbed ground: follow the float up a slope; at the point where the chalcedony markedly diminishes in quantity is the most promising place to start digging. Hidden under the ground here may be the vein from which the float is eroding. You should begin uncovering chalcedony (if you are digging over a vein) just below the surface. The material is embedded in weathered lava, and careful digging (using a brush or small broom to expose the chalcedony knobs) usually pays off. Fire agate is still waiting for you at Coon Hollow!
HAUSER GEODE BEDS: Many hobbyists are interested in geodes, for they are fun to hunt. One of the North American Continent’s most famous geode diggings is the Hauser Beds, lying at the southern tip of the Black Hills. This field has been known for over 20 years, and is still a heavy producer. Not only are there geodes still left in developed fields; there are whole deposits yet untouched in the Black Hills. Each time we visit the area, we sight new roads leading to new finds.
To reach this popular area, first described by Harold Weight in the May ’47 Desert Magazine, drive south on the main Wiley Well road two miles beyond the Coon Hollow turnoff. You will pass two roads leading off to the right—the first is to a camp area; the second is the original road to the Hauser Beds, which still is passable. At the two mile point (just before a low range of hills) is a newer road to Hauser which saves a mile of travel, and misses some sharp dips. This winding road tends south and west, and has many side-branches; but the main road is fairly easy to determine. About four miles from the Wiley Well Road, Middle Camp is reached. Branch roads lead to the east and other geode beds, but the main road tends south. If you are pulling a trailer, you had best park it at Middle Camp, for road conditions deteriorate beyond this point. A mile and- a-half beyond Middle Camp, on the left, is a road to a geode bed known as the Potato Patch, discussed below. Farther on are a number of right branches leading to other geode fields, and about five miles beyond Middle Camp is a flat area from which you can see a number of large whitish scars on a hill. This is it.
In this area you are literally surrounded by diggings. Almost any of the old holes, after some cleaning out, will yield geodes—or you may want to hunt for float geodes and open a new hole. Opportunities here are almost unlimited. Recently we were asked to name the best place in the Southwest for a novice rockhound to visit on his first field trip. Without hesitation we chose the Hauser Beds.
If you don’t care for digging, nice specimens can be found on the dumps on the slopes below each hole. We actually picked up a whole geode, later found to be lined with amethyst quartz crystals, on one of these dumps. If you like to dig for treasure, you may have the thrill of uncovering a “nest” of geodes—by no means a rare event. Digging here is easy; the volcanic ash in which the geodes are found is powdery.
We recommend that these geodes be broken open, rather than sawed. More than 85% of the Hauser geodes contain little or no agate; their hollows more often lined with beautiful crystals. Sawing does nothing to enhance the beauty of the crystals, and the brown rock geode shell will not take even a fair polish. We crack all of our Hauser geodes by carefully chipping with a chisel along a line in about three places on one face. We choose the longer dimension, and if carefully done, we end up with two nice halves. Hitting geodes with a hammer only results in smashed specimens.
POTATO PATCH: This field lying south of the road into Hauser Beds has been badly neglected by past writers. True, the Potato Patch is not as extensive as Hauser and the digging is not as easy, but a good percentage of the Potato Patch geodes contain prized amethyst quartz crystals. Some of the finest amethyst geodes that have originated in America were found here.
After leaving the Hauser Bed Road, about W2 miles from Middle Camp, the Potato Patch Road dips into a small valley. Directly to the east, near the top of a low ridge, lie the beds. The geodes are contained in a layer of volcanic ash about a foot or two thick; the whole overlaid by a layer of lava. This makes for difficult digging, but plenty of it has been done here in the past. A pry bar and a medium or heavy hammer will help break-up the lava layer.
Agate Specimen from the Twin Buttes Area 
TWIN BUTTES: In the November ’50 Desert Magazine, Harold Weight wrote about an agate field in the west-end of the Palo Verde Mountains near a prominent formation which he called Double Butte. As more visitors entered the area, two other names — “The Thumbs” and “Twin Buttes” — have been used to describe the landmark. At present, the most popular of the three names is Twin Buttes. At the time Weight wrote about this area, the road was fit for burro or four-wheeldrive vehicle. Continued penetration by rockhounds improved the road somewhat, but for several years this was a stretch to be dreaded. Then came discovery of a manganese deposit near the agate field, and a new entrance road was cut through the area. Who the miners were, we never learned, for the ore deposit played-out before we could offer our thanks for the boulevard they had created.
To reach the Twin Buttes area, travel south from Wiley Well about 5 1/2 -miles. Just after you pass the hills beyond the Hauser Bed turnoff, the road crosses a deep but easily passable wash. The Twin Buttes cutoff is on the left just beyond the wash, and can be seen winding over the small hills and washes to the east. About 1 1/2 – miles along the Twin Buttes Road, another wash is crossed. Just beyond this point, the road makes a sharp left turn, and then forks. The left branch leads to a nice camping area at the northern edge of the agate field at the foot of the buttes. We usually take the unimproved right-fork and follow it about a half-mile to its end, where there is a large parking area and a fair campground. From here a trail leads south down into a valley which contains the main agate fields. How extensive the deposit is, we do not know, for the hunting is usually so good that we seldom need go more than a half-mile beyond our car.
When this area was first worked a large number of nice nodules up to six-inches long and containing beautiful moss and banded agate were dug from a weathered lava bed. This deposit lies to the west of the trail. Further along are other signs of digging. All of these holes were productive, and may still be so, but the digging is far from easy.
The flat areas yield agate float. The white-to-yellowish material usually is poor or worthless when cut, and the best specimens are those small irregular pieces that are black with desert varnish. Careful chipping of the corner of one of these may reveal red, blue, purple or orange agate—or excellent- quality fortification agate madeup of roughly circular concentric banding. We also have found green, black and orange moss agate, and, on rare occasions, fine golden sagenite. This sagenite, made up of bundles and sprays of golden needles in a blue or purplish background, is really prize material.
The thing to strive for in this field is quality. The good pieces are seldom more than few inches long in greatest dimension. Out of most pieces we cut only a single cabochon. Our favorite method of hunting such material is to sit down on the ground and carefully search a five – to – ten foot circle, repeating this across the flat. Easiest rockhounding we know of!
If you camp at the foot of the buttes, you can reach the main field by walking up the valley and wash to the west. Hunting is good a short distance out of camp, and don’t overlook the slopes to the right as you move westward. They have produced fine material.


PALO VERDE PASS: In the eastern- end of the Palo Verde Mountains lies Palo Verde Pass. This defile contains an agate field that Harold Weight wrote about in the November ’56 Desert Magazine. Evidently, the field is an extension of the other areas to the west, for we find the material to be quite similar. At no time, as far as we can determine, was the Palo Verde Pass material plentiful, and the visits of many rockhounds have removed most of the accessible supply

Randall Henderson, Man of the Desert

Randall Henderson photo










By: Jack Pepper

Founder and for 22 years editor and publisher of Desert Magazine, Randall Henderson has spent more than 50 years exploring the lands and mountains of the American Desert. Through the pages of Desert Magazine he has created a “living desert” for millions of people who otherwise would think of the desert as only arid wastelands. His book, ON DESERT TRAILS, published in 1961, is a factual and fascinating report of his desert experiences.

ALTHOUGH RANDALL Henderson’s name has not been listed in DESERT Magazine tor more than five years, letters and manuscripts addressed to him as editor and publisher are received every day. And they will probably be received for years to come, for the name Randall Henderson is synonymous with not only DESERT Magazine, but the entire American Desert.

No one conquers the desert, but Henderson and his “old timer” friends know the desert as only those who have lived on the arid lands before the advent of air-conditioned homes, cars and paved highways could know it. Those long time friends include Indians, so called “desert rats”, prospectors, artists, scientists, missionaries, and nationally known figures such as Senator Barry Goldwater and Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall.

Randall Henderson is not loved by every one of his associates, but he is respected by all. No man who has used his physical and mental strength to help settle the desert could be a Pollyanna. He has been called stubborn, unreasonable and a man too set in his own ways. If this is true, which his thousands of friends and admirers will vehemently deny, it is these very characteristics which were needed by the men who explored and settled desert areas. The true desert, even today, is not for the timid nor for those incapable of making decisions and then lacking the strength to put them in action.

This is a story of Randall Henderson. It is also an attempt to bring a better understanding to the new desert dwellers of the concept of the so called “old timers.”

Fifty-four years ago Henderson himself was a newcomer to the desert. While attending the University of California to study economics and sociology, he worked as a sports reporter on the Los Angeles Times. His editor, Harry Carr, advised him to “leave this city rat race” and work for a small newspaper, the dream of every old time newspaperman.

After graduating from U.S.C., Henderson took the advice and gave up his $21 a week salary on the Times for a $6 a week income as an apprentice printer on the Parker, Arizona weekly Post.

Two years later he joined the small staff of the Blythe, California Herald and later went to Calexico, a California town on the Mexican border where he edited and published his own paper until 1933 when he sold it to start a printing shop in El Centro. During those years he learned two things; every phase of the newspaper and printing business, and to know the desert as only one who hikes or rides horseback into isolated areas in all kinds of weather can know the desert.

Both of these accomplishments were necessary when Henderson and Wilson McKinney, a newspaper associate and now editor of the California State Teachers Journal, conceived the idea of DESERT Magazine while sitting around a campfire in the Santa Rosa Mountains.

With only $6,000 capital, 600 charter subscribers, a few local advertisers who invested more for friendship than monetary gain, Henderson and McKinney published the first issue of DESERT Magazine on November 1, 1937. In the first issue, Henderson’s editorial, which has been widely quoted for 27 years, entitled “There Are Two Deserts” was published:

One is a grim desolate wasteland. It is the home of venomous reptiles and stinging insects, of vicious thorn bearing plants and trees, and of unbearable heat. This is the desert seen by the stranger speeding along the highway, impatient to be “out of this damnable country.” It is the desert visualized by those children of luxury to whom any environment in unbearable which does not provide all the comforts and services of a pampering civilization. It is the concept fostered by fiction writers who dramatize the tragedies of the desert for the profit it will bring them.

But the stranger and the unitiated see only the mask. The other Desert— the real Desert—is not for the eyes of the superficial observer, or the fearful soul or the cynic. It is a land, the character of which is hidden except to those who come with friendliness and understanding. To these the Desert offers rare gifts: health-giving sunshine— a sky that is studded with diamonds— a breeze that bears no poison —a landscape of pastel colors such as no artist can duplicate—thorn-covered plants which during countless ages have clung tenaciously to life through heat and drought and wind and the depredations of thirsty animals, and yet each season send forth blossoms of exquisite coloring as a symbol of courage that has triumphed over terrifying obstacles.

To those who come to the Desert with friendliness it gives friendship; to those who come with courage, it gives new strength of character. Those seeking relaxation find release from the world of man-made troubles. For those seeking beauty, the Desert offers nature’s rarest artistry. This is the Desert that men and women learn to love.

In commenting on this editorial today and in refuting charges by some that “the old timers resent new people coming to the desert and only want to keep it for themselves” Henderson says:

“The popular image of the desert has changed very radically during the 26 years since I wrote the editorial. Air-conditioning, good highways and other mechanical miracles of an advancing technology have brought a new dimension to the public concept of ‘desert’. The ‘pampering civilization’ to which I referred, has now come to the arid Southwest. Palm Springs, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson and scores of other communities in this land of little rainfall now offer all the swank and luxury of the ultimate in sophistication.

“The desert has not changed, except where the landscape is being reconstructed to serve the needs and cater to the whims of hordes of vacationing visitors. But the lure that brings them here is something that hardly could have been envisioned half-a-century ago when I came to this desert land. To the old-timers, before the days of air-conditioning and automobiles, the desert was a challenge, its summer heat something to be endured, horses and buckboards quite adequate for our transportation needs. For recreation we explored canyons, tramped hills and mesas in quest of rare minerals, and played poker by the light of a kerosene lamp. We lived close to the good earth, arid as it was, and found it no hardship.

“A few of those who come to the desert today still derive their satisfactions in hiking along ancient Indian trails, camping at remote waterholes, learning the names and the habits of the wildlife species whom they accept as friends, and finding beauty in the desert sunsets.

“For a great majority of those who come today the lure is golf courses, temperature – controlled swimming pools, floor shows in swanky dining rooms, and speculation in the zooming property values of resort areas.

“Yes, there is a bit of nostalgia in what I am saying. But the desert has lost none of its natural charm. There are still thousands of little known canyons to be explored, trail less mountains to be climbed, rare species of plant life to be discovered, and lovely places where there is solitude for those who are aware of the tonic value of close communion with the natural world.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, wrote John Muir, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.

“That was true when John Muir lived. It is a truth of even greater significance today, for these are confusing times. While humans push and crowd and burn themselves out in a crazy stampede for more profits and higher wages and the satisfaction of personal vanities, Nature goes along in her own serene way, undisturbed by the petty bickering’s of the passing parade of homo sapiens.

“As one of the old-timers I do not resent the coming of golf carts and heated pools, cocktail parties and fabulous profits in real estate. I can live with these things. But I do object to the Chamber of Commerce fiction that they are a gauge of ‘progress’. For the desert has taught me that the professor in my philosophy class of long ago was right when he told me that true progress takes place only in the human heart and mind in the broadening of vision and understanding, the strengthening of the qualities of tolerance and generosity and humility.”

In starting DESERT Magazine in 1937 Henderson not only created the first and only publication devoted to the American Desert, which it still is today, but opened a market for many writers and artists who were first published in DESERT. These names include Nell Murbarger, Lucile and Harold Weight, John Hilton, Nina Paul Shumway, Dr. Edmund Jaeger, and scores of others too numerous to list.

With World War II, Henderson, who had been a pilot in World War I, again enlisted and asked for an assignment in the African deserts, “because I felt I could be of more service.” During his three years overseas the magazine was run by his daughter, Evonne Riddell, Lucile Weight and Bess Stacy. “Maybe I should have left earlier,” he recalls, “because under the direction of the girls the magazine showed a profit for the first time.”

While in Africa he decided to move the location of DESERT Magazine to Palm Desert. The move was delayed until Henderson and others were able to get the road from Indio to Banning paved and establish a Palm Desert post office. His longtime dream to house DESERT Magazine in a large building with a museum of the desert and have it as a meeting place for writers, artists and scientists was fulfilled when the present building was completed and the first issue published in the new building on August 1, 1948.

But the desert museum section was not to materialize. Cost of the building because of high post-war prices far exceeded his budget, preventing him from establishing the museum. Instead he converted the large front room into a gallery which turned out to be an excellent idea. The West’s greatest painted have exhibited there. Henderson was active in establishing the fine Desert Museum in Palm Springs.

In World War II Henderson’s son and former hiking and constant companion was killed in action with the Second Marine Division in the South Pacific. With no one in his family to assume the position as editor and publisher of DESERT Magazine, on his 70th birthday Henderson decided to sell the publication. Two years later he retired as publisher. Today, however, at 74, he is still active, exploring the desert and writing articles for DESERT and other publications to bring knowledge of the desert to others and to fight for the preservation of wilderness areas and the desert he knows and loves.

From the March, 1964 issue of Desert Magazine

NOTE: Randall Henderson passed away on July 4th, 1970. His obituary, was published in the September, 1970, issue of Desert Magazine

the perfect family….. vacation VAGRANT HOLIDAY

From Desert Magazine June, 1967

the perfect family….. vacation

Window Arch, the object of our search.

Window Arch, the object of our search.

By Mel Lewis

Window Arch, the object of our search MOST OF Western America is very prolific in frontier history. There are the Sutters Forts, the Dodge Cities, the Roaring Camps, all symbols of the lusty and boisterous growth of an intrepid young nation. But the student of human antiquity is acutely aware of a much deeper reaching segment of Western Americana that might well hold the key to the dawn of civilization in the Western hemisphere.

The country West and South of the continental divide had for thousands of years been inhabited by a people of remarkably civil stature. They emerged out of the diffusion of pre-history, built great pueblos, developed irrigated farms, practiced superb arts and crafts, worshipped their gods and drifted back into misty time as intangibly as they came. They left no written record, so who they were, where they came from and where they have gone is still largely a matter of conjecture. All of this was staged in a region that has been colored and carved in such magnificence by the patient tools of nature that it defies all but spiritual description. It was in this setting that we chose to ordain our “Vagrant Holiday.” True to our adopted identity as “vagrants,” we loaded sleeping bags, cooking utensils and a few staples into our
compact station wagon and took to the open road. Our idea was to maintain enough self-sufficiency to spend as much time as desired in any locale without dependency upon commercial facilities.

By late evening of the first day out we were within the boundary of the Acoma Indian reservation in northwestern New Mexico, and comfortably situated in an abandoned mud and wattle hogan. The basic design and construction of an Indian hogan has not changed in 2000 years, yet it remains one of the most efficient refuges from summer heat or winter chill ever devised by man. This one was no exception and we were smug with satisfaction as we relished a delicious but simple Dutch oven meal of Polish sausages smothered in butter steamed cabbage.

It was nearly a race between us and the early morning sun as we climbed a steep foot path to the mesa top, where Acoma Pueblo, The Sky City, as it is called, lay in its lofty berth. But the sun was already there, casting slanting rays across the face of the great Acoma Mission, displaying in strong texture the imprints of thousands of laboring brown hands that patiently patted clay plaster to the stone walls in years past. The design was exemplified and echoed in the dozens of multi-storied dwellings that crowded the mesa top.

Stronghold House in Hovenweep Canyon. Its occupants vanished long before white man sighted American shores.

Stronghold House in Hovenweep Canyon. Its occupants vanished long before white man sighted American

Acoma Pueblo, with the exception of the mission, stands today much like it did in pre-Columbian times, and much like it did when Coronado’s captains came this way in 1539 in search of the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola. No man can say just when Acoma was built on its natural stronghold and Indian tradition offers no clue. Historians agree though, that The Sky City is the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in North America.

Ancestors of the Indians now living at Acoma were subjected to brutality and enslavement at the hands of the Spanish conquistadores, and the next hundred years of their history was written in blood. Later arrivals were the Franciscan Fathers, the mission builders, who through gentle persuasion pacified the rebellious Indians and, outwardly at least, brought them into the fold of Christianity. Today, nearly five centuries later, the conquerors have vanished. Even the Franciscan Fathers have disappeared. But the Acoma Indian
remains a living symbol of dedication to purpose and of human dignity. slanting rays across the face of the great Acoma Mission, displaying in strong texture the imprints of thousands of laboring brown hands that patiently patted clay plaster to the stone walls in years past. The design was exemplified and echoed in the dozens of multi-storied dwellings that crowded the mesa top.

Our third day closed with the riotous profusion of color characteristic of desert sunsets. Against this backdrop the enormity of Shiprock stood as an elevated guide post, easily seen from over a hundred miles away. And now, by the light of a full moon, we were cautiously working our little station wagon along the faintest suggestion of a road that would eventually terminate near the base of Shiprock.

The night was friendly, so we used no shelter for our camp. We prepared our evening meal by broiling thick double lamb chops against a bank of charcoal coals. The lamb chops were prepared by piercing them several times with a fork, sprinkling them with salt and coarse black pepper on one side only and allowing
to lay salted side up for a few minutes until the salt had dissolved into the meat. The chops were then placed in an old fashioned wire toaster and propped, with the salted side against the bank of hot coals. They were allowed to broil in this position until the juices began to ooze from the fork perforations on the other side. They were then turned and broiled until brown. The chops were complimented with fresh tomatoes and cool mugs of buttermilk. No king, vagrant nor royal ever had it so good.

The Navajo Indians call Shiprock, The Rock With Wings."

The Navajo Indians call Shiprock, The Rock With Wings.”

On the morning of the fourth day we explored and photographed Shiprock. By the use of an uncertain aneroid and some primitive triangulation, we determined the base of Shiprock to be 7,200 ft. above sea level and its jagged peak to rise 1,700 ft. above the desert floor— Sa-bit-tai-e (The Rock With Wings) the
Navajo call it. Their legend says that this was the Great Bird that brought their ancestors down from the north, and then nested here to guard over them and their descendants for all time and eternity.

It’s difficult to visualize a towering pillar of stone as having once been the throat of a super hot volcano. Geologists, though, tell us that this is exactly how Shiprock was formed. As the volcano becomes
inactive, the molten lava in its throat cools to a solid state. The cone, composed of ash and minute particles of lava, erodes away to leave the solidified core standing as a monument to the processes of nature. These formations are called volcanic plugs, and are quite often common through the Four Corners country.
Such is the stature of Shiprock, New Mexico.

We had heard sporadic tales of a magnificent natural arch lying in the Kah Bihghi Valley, somewhere south and west of Shiprock. This arch, we were told, dwarfed the fabulous Delicate Arch of Arches National Monument and rivaled in size any known arch in all the Canyonlands country. In search of it, we were soon pounding along a dirt road toward the distant Carrizo Mountains.

Somewhere we crossed the unmarked Arizona-New Mexico border and came upon two Navajo lads playing in an old sheep corral. Our questions concerning the location of the arch, which by now we had learned was called Window Arch, were met with the brevity of a pointed finger and a grunt. The lads, perplexed at our inability to comprehend their directions, climbed into our car and again pointed. Following the pointing fingers, we thumped over stones, dragged through dry washes and climbed embankments that thoroughly taxed our faith in the pluck of the little station wagon. Our relief was audible when the boys signaled a halt. Before us, in astonishing grandeur, stood Window Arch. All that had been said of it was true!

Window Arch stands in what is geologically known as the Morrison Formation, a sandstone formation of pastel reds, oranges and yellows, which collides abruptly with the blue sky. Window Arch was formed by the slow process of erosion— a grain of sand, a pebble, a gust ofwind a drop of rain, until eons had passed and the colossus of nature’s handwork was on exhibition.

Acoma Pueblo, a settlement with a continuity of habitation longer than the memory of man

If “Deserted Valley” were translated into the Ute Indian tongue, a word like “Hovenweep” would be derived. Hovenweep, then, is the Ute name applied to the deserted canyons west of Cortez, Colorado and north of the San Juan River. Within the confines of these canyons lie some of the most spectacular archaeological remains in all the Southwest. It was here, on our fifth day, that we felt ourselves standing upon the threshold of yesterday. We explored and photographed the pre-historic ruins, some of which had been built as early as 400 A.D. and others as late as 1250 A.D. There were round towers, square towers and D shaped towers, all strategically located to guard canyon approaches to the main dwellings. There were secondary towers, located in defensible sites near the precious springs, and there were rooms built in the cool shade of overhanging shelves of sandstone. Most spectacular of all, though, were the multi-storied pueblos perched upon the very brink of the sandstone cliffs. Frontally located loop holes commanded a panoramic view of hundreds of square miles of indescribable desert scenery. Indeed, from here we could see Shiprock, over 75 miles away, like the prow of a giant ship bearing towards us over the distant horizon.

Standing amidst such eloquent monuments to a vanished civilization, we were in unanimous agreement that Hovenweep was the high light of our trip.

When the day was ended and we pointed our station wagon toward our air-conditioned life with comfortable beds and clean clothes, we were ready to go home,but each of us knew in our hearts that another Vagrant Holiday awaited in the not too distant future.

Paradise For Lunkers

Paradise for Lunkers

Published by Desert Magazine on August 19, 2013

Paradise for Lunkers


Lake Powell


By: Stan Jones

Lake Powell is one of the wonderlands of the West. Formed eight years ago by waters of the Colorado River backed up by the Glen Canyon Dam on the Utah-Arizona border, the serpentine waters have inundated the hundreds of estuaries where half-submerged trees and logs make Lake Powell a fisherman’s paradise. Stan Jones, whose fishing knowledge has resulted in his title of “Mr. Lake Powell,” tells you how to fish for these giant lunkers.


HUGE, SPECTACULAR Lake Powell is now seven years old. And, for the angler, it has come old age. Its deep, clear waters teem with eight varieties of fat and healthy fish. Each season finds each of the species larger in size and numbers. In Powell, living things grow at a fantastic rate.

I’ve had the good fortune to explore and fish this unique body of water since its beginning. Today, more than ever before, Lake Powell offers an unparalleled combination of excellent fishing and superb scenery. What I enjoy about fishing Powell is its “open season” (day and night every day in the year) and the fact that I can fish for largemouth bass, rainbow and brown trout, crappie, bluegill and green sunfish. walleye pike or catfish— all in the one lake. What more could an angler ask?

My home in Page, Arizona stands almost on the shore of Lake Powell. I can roll my boat into the blue waters of Wahweap Bay whenever I wish. The waterway is so vast and so replete with canyons, coves and bays that I virtually disappear in a matter of minutes, returning to a favored glen or discovering a new hideaway where I might fish for hours without sighting another craft.

When fishing Lake  Powell, be sure and have a strong net for the large mouth bass and for these beauties

When fishing Lake Powell, be sure and have a strong net for the large mouth bass and for these beauties

But these pleasures are not reserved for those of us who live in Lake Powell Country. You can share the joys of this grand, new lake, too. One word of caution: marine biologists describe Lake Powell as “exotic”, meaning that its geological and ecological structure differs in many ways from that of most other lakes where any of those same eight varieties of fish may also be found. Thus, at Powell, the angler may find that fish with familiar names may not respond in familiar ways because they inhabit unfamiliar” environment.

The longer I cling to the Isaac Walton cult the more I realize that no man is a genuine, unbiased, dependable, completely knowledgeable authority on fishing. But my love of the sport and my years in pursuit of Lake Powell’s denizens have given me some small insight into the nature of Powell’s “exotic” underwater terrain and the often unusual habits of its remarkable fish population. So I offer this introduction to the lake’s species in the hope that it might assist DESERT readers to enjoy Powell’s fishing as much as I do.


If Lake Powell, like Scotland’s Loch Ness, harbors a seldom-seen but much talked- about creature of the deep it must be the walleye pike. Each year nets of marine biologist census-takers reveal increased numbers of walleyes. But only a few anglers have brought in the pike by rod and reel.

The largest concentration of walleyes is in Padre Bay, but nets reveal them in other areas, too. Their insatiable appetite for the big lake’s thriving threadfin shad population ensures that the species will continue to follow shad schools into all of Powell’s waterways.

Considered a native, rather than a planted fish, walleye are thought to have “escaped” into Lake Powell from a tiny, older lake on Utah’s Green River far to the north. Powell’s clean, deep water has provided an ideal climate for a pike population explosion. The species is certain to become more and more important to the lake’s sportfishing.

Named because of its white, blankstar corneas, the walleye is actually a variety of perch, not a true pike. It lives in deep water, feeds late in the day, and pound for pound can give any other Lake Powell denizen plenty of competition in the fightin’est fish race. The walleye’s potential life span is about seven years and an individual can grow to great length. Slim and sleek, with a snout that makes Jimmie Durante’s look like a wart, the Lake Powell walleye responds best to trolled artificial lures resembling minnows.

In the middle of Powell’s Padre Bay stands a natural unnamed gravel island that has a special appeal for the lake’s walleyes. Waters surrounding the isle are especially deep and cold. Schools of shimmering shad periodically meander around so that the larger fish have only to lie in wait for an evening meal. From those depths the census takers have netted walleyes as large as nine pounds. Anglers who troll around the island have not fared so well. Powell’s record rod and reel catch weighed five pounds, three ounces.

lunkers4My favorite lures for walleyes are small silver spoons (to which a short length of pork rind can be added); a three-inch black and silver Rapala, or one of several of Poe’s Loco-motion plastic plugs. But none of these trolled lures seems to cause Mr. Walleye to blow his mind. Only if the spirit moves him will he stir his long torso and dart after the bait, clamping down on it with those big, ugly jaws, then turning to head for the deep.

From that moment there is little question about the walleye’s ability to make war. And it will be a war fought on his own ground-—in the cold, dark waters of the bay where he will use every trick short of surfacing to convince the angler that all walleyes should be allowed to remain right where they are found.

Few people want to work as long and as hard as is necessary to bag a significant number of walleyes. But I anticipate the day when a good percentage of Lake Powell anglers will seek out special challenges; a day when a man’s piscatorial prowess will be measured by the number and sizes of walleyes he can wrest from the depths. The walleye bag limit is six fish. I know of no one who has brought in such a catch.


The angler who is out strictly for fun (and some especially good eating) can have a ball at Lake Powell by going after black crappie. First planted in 1965, that species found Powell’s waters ideal for breeding and for a high rate of offspring survival. As a result, small plate-shaped crappie arc everywhere in vast numbers and many individuals have grown big and fat.

Although crappie traditionally seek roiled waters in warm shallows such is not the case at Lake Powell. Catches can be most easily obtained in clean water at the base of sheer cliffs; in clean waters surrounding gravel shoals and islands, and in the clean shallows of slim canyons. I continually snag crappie while trolling for bass in such places, especially during summer months. No matter how large a lure I troll the crappie seem anxious to dart after it. Many of my “unwanted” crappies were smaller in size than the plug that hooked them !

Also known as “calico bass” the black crappie is not quite the scrapper that is its beautiful mid-western cousin, the “strawberry bass.” But its meat is equally as delicious. The average individual will weigh in at about three-fourths of a pound, but some of the older crappies have survived for four or five years and have grown to pie-tin proportions. Marine biologist Steve Gloss of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources tells of one Powell crappie that weighed two pounds, four ounces!

There is no bag limit on black crappie; methods of hooking them seem limitless, too. Crappie fishing remains a favorite of kids who like to still-fish with worms or bugs. A youngster can throw such bait into Powell’s water at almost any point along its 1,800-mile-long shoreline and chances are he’ll end up with a stringer of the little panfish. Unless the juvenile angler is fourteen years old he needs no license at Lake Powell.

If you insist on instant fishing success try for this spirited little denizen. And if you like your catch fried over a campfire there is no fish more pleasing to the outdoor palate than the sweet-meat black crappie.


Bluegills and green sunfish are native to the canyons of the Colorado River and they have thrived since being trapped in huge Lake Powell. They will respond to anglers in much the same manner as black crappie. But the angler looking for a special thrill may want to pursue these lively fish with a fly rod.

To stand in an open boat and whip a tapered line out across the placid lake surface can be a demanding, but rewarding experience. Some fair-size bluegills and sunfish can be expected to rise to your choice of a fly. Half-pounds are common; the census-takers report that some individuals grow to weigh a pound!

The bluegills, sunfish and crappie- all true sunfish — share a bright, shallow realm, prefering sunshine, sandy bottoms and, where possible, moving water. In spring they may inhabit the upper ends of Powell’s 91 major canyons where runoff can cause clear riffles, sparkling falls and sometimes muddy torrents to pour into the lake. They feed on shad, not on verdure at the bottom, so near-the-surface fishing is the rule.

There are no possession limits on bluegills or green sunfish. Considering the fact that they have been trapped in the big lake for only seven years, and that the all-time American bluegill record is four pounds, twelve ounces, Powell’s bluegills are coming along well. Perhaps some avid fly enthusiast will net one the size of a frying pan during the season.


There is one denizen in Powell’s waters that may not appreciate the normally clean nature of Powell’s “exotic” underwater realm. It is the channel catfish, the only species that remains quite typical of his kind everywhere. Native to Glen Canyon long before men dammed the Colorado River, big old cats continue to haunt the few muddy bottoms to be found in Lake Powell Country. Although doughballs, guts and other “untouchable” baits are as effective at Powell as elsewhere, a surprising number of catfish are caught on waterdogs!

Best catfishing is at the heads of wide bays such as Wahweap, Warm Creek or Bullfrog where new rises in the lake’s level can create instant verdure-choked mud-holes in which cats love to wallow. Because it is not stalked like other species, the catfish is not considered by many anglers to be a true sporting fish. But, in the West, there are a growing number of small-boaters who like to sit in the sun in less scenic areas and try for strings of the delicious, homely critters. The bag limit is 24 fish.

The small canyons of Lake Powell test the angler's skill as he uses either waterdogs or plugs for the elusive trout and bast. Fishermen can also admire the brilliant red sandstone cliffs—provided they take time from catching the lunkers.


Among the eight species of game fish in Lake Powell none has caused more recent comment than the German brown trout. Not because of its numbers—there are relatively few in the lake—but because of several giant specimens landed by surprised anglers who were actually seeking rainbow trout. As Desert Magazine went to press Powell’s brown trout record stood at a remarkable seventeen pounds, two ounces. But in the past such records have not survived for long.

The sleek, red-spotted brown trout in Lake Powell are said to be runaways from Navajo Lake on the San Juan River in New Mexico. Winding their way down the long canyons to Powell they set up housekeeping as though they really belonged. And so they do, for the important “exotic” conditions at Powell have contributed to a significant survival and fantastic growth rate for the browns.

Two conditions typical of Lake Powell are in large part responsible for the brown’s healthy existence and abnormal growth. First, the lake’s water is especially clean and marine biologists say, “the cleaner the water the faster browns grow.” Second, Powell does not freeze over during winter. This is very important to the brown because the species is a great user of oxygen. In bodies of water that are frozen over for long periods (especially if covered by snow that shields inundated oxygen-producing plants from the sun’s rays) the brown trout can actually breathe himself to extinction.

Where are Powell’s biggest browns and how to fish for them ? No one really knows. But the brown’s habitat and habit patterns are historically those of his close cousin, the rainbow trout. My advice is to go rainbow trout fishing and, although the odds are long, maybe Mr. Brown will take a liking to your lure.

So if you want to go fishing and get away from the problem of having another angler ramming your boat or snarling your line . . . if you warn to work hard for the big ones or just lazily relax in the sun and let the others take your hook . . . and if you want both spectacular scenery, clear blue waters and a combination of swimming, relaxation, peaceful camping under open smog-free skies and the companionship of others who enjoy the great outdoors- then try ray fishin’ hole—Lake Powell.


DESERT MAGAZINE February 1976 Page 24


“Miguel” – Tribe: Yuma
22″x28″, Oil
Courtesy: Peterson Galleries

Story by: Nick Lawrence

THE RESURGENCE of western art the past several years is a result, in one form or another, of a rather significant cultural regression —a throw-back to our history of the West; an integral segment of our current wave of nostalgia.

With this renewed interest by western art patrons throughout the country, and not surprisingly a very strong patronage in the art centers of Europe, our traditional American masters of this theatre of art have enjoyed an overwhelming surge in demand. The Remington’s, Russell’s, and more recently the Frank McCarthy’s are stripping previous economic standards to bits.

Remington set a western art auction record in 1973 of $175,000. Extremely prolific, meticulous with the authenticity of his subject matter, he left an estimated 2,800 works at his death in 1909, and not surprising in light of the current trend, these works, together with other masters of the field, do not even begin to satisfy the market.

There are few contemporary western artists producing ultra-exceptional work. In the opinion of artists themselves, Frank McCarthy is probably the best western artist today. He paints with incredible realism possible with oil on masonite (which is an extremely difficult technique that only the very best accomplish with any worthwhile results). Buck McCain is producing some very credible work specializing in very large oils. One of the fine newcomers is James Zar.

Zar, like McCarthy, paints with a realism that is absolutely stunning. Unlike McCarthy, whose composition encompasses magnificent sweeping landscape with action characters, Zar’s subjects loom from the canvas with a fantastic aura of mystic. Specializing in the American Indian, Zar has been able to capture the sweep of the history of our ‘first’ Americans as few artists have done. Painting with tremendous power and technique with use of color tones seldom seen, Zar’s balance and subject structure are overpowering.


“Wolf Robe”- Tribe: Cheyenne,
24″x30″, Oil
Courtesy: Mr. & Mrs. Patrick Sullivan

A student of the American West, Zar, in planning a painting, does very significant research into the tribal history, regalia, and facial characteristics in addition to regional study for landscape and background setting. A composite of the subject is then drawn to approximate final proportions at which time his great talent takes over for the final work.

His most dramatic works are portrait in nature with subject, regalia, and landscape in total complement. The remarkable detail work is extraordinary, a la McCarthy. A recently completed work, however, is a departure in that a full posture oil of a Mohave Indian, “Desert Dweller”, just might be Zar’s most impressive work to date in terms of pure painting technique.

Zar has not always been enamored with the American Indian as subject matter. “My catharsis from surrealism to the realism of the American West and our ‘first’ Americans came about very suddenly after a trip through the southwest and the plains of the midwest when the opportunity presented itself to visit several reservations,” he explained.

“I have always been interested in our Indian heritage, history, and culture. After seeing these people on their ‘reservations’, the grandness that was theirs became a very emotional experience for me and ultimately has influenced my subject matter professionally.”

One is so very aware of the strength in the subjects of Zar’s paintings that one wonders if he possesses a special insight. “Because of the fierce pride and deep reverence this land has worn upon their faces,” Zar clarified,” I feel they are our true chroniclers of the past. In addition, mysticism and religion are mankind’s highest order of awareness and the American Indian of the past has had little or no acknowledgement for his unique contribution in this area to our American character.


“Horse Capture” – Tribe: Atsina,
24″ x 30″, Oil
Courtesy: Mr. & Mrs. Raymond Capps

“Each Indian I choose to paint has motivated me this degree because he, or she, seemed a mirror of this inner quest; a person frozen to the significance of their own personal vision.”

What sets apart the exceptional artisans from mass mediocrity is not only basic talent — in some cases genius — but a common denominator . . . versatility. Oil on canvas is Zar’s forte; however, his work with oil on treated cardboard is not short of magnificent. His pencil sketches exude a dimensional quality that only the very best technicians are able to produce.

James Courtney Zar’s formal art education at San Jose College, the San Francisco Art Institute, and private studies under the dynamic Keith Finch, represent 15 years of mastering his craft. Croup shows include the Horizon Gallery, Venice; Fiengarten Gallery, Los Angeles; Santa Barbara Art Museum; Hartman Gallerie, Thousand Oaks; Peterson Galleries, Beverly Hills; a one-man show University of Santa Clara.

Zar’s work, in addition to this publication, is featured on the cover of the International Artists Directory (1976); contributing art Arizona Highways Magazine; New Mexico Magazine, Bicentennial Issue, January, 1976. He is currently teaching art for the ABC Unified Adult District, Norwalk, California.


“Desert Dweller”
Tribe: Mohave,
15″ x 30″, Oil,
Courtesy, Hartman Gallerie

Navajo Teachings





The following are of the teachings of the Navajo elders and Medicine men, still handed down.


Before arriving into this world, the Dineh transversed through other worlds first, being led and taught by the Holy Ones, this also gave them their ceremonies.


The commencement of time was called the First or Black World. Abiding there, in spiritual form, were the Holy People and the Insect People . Living also in spiritual form was First Man and First Woman which was called into being by the Holy People. Because of the constant fighting and practicing of witchcraft by the Insect People everyone moved upward. They found the Blue World through a portal in the east, but unfortunately the evil came with them.


Many creatures already resided in the Second or Blue World. War between the Wolves, Badgers, Kit- Foxes and Mountain Lions which lived there had caused much sadness and suffering everywhere. Pleas came from everyone to leave. Taking away the power of evil from the Insect People and getting ready to leave, First Man fashioned a wand of turquoise, white shell, jet and abalone. The wand transported everyone across to the Third World through a window in the south.


The first to pass into the Third or Yellow World was the Bluebird which was followed by First Man, First Woman, Coyote and one of the Insect People. After a time Coyote caused a great flood by stealing the water Monster’s baby. To escape the rising flood waters, First Man directed everyone to climb a reed and as they did so they discovered Coyote with the Water Monster’s baby. Upon reproach from everyone, Coyote returned the baby and the waters began to recede.


First to make his way into the Fourth or Glittering World was Locust . This world was saturated with water and monsters which would let no other Beings into the world until Locust passed certain tests. After entering this world, First Man and First Woman evolved the four sacred mountains:

East: Blanca Peakj  South: Mt . Taylor; West: San Francisco Peaks;  North:La Plata Range.


A miracle came to pass one morning, First Man and First Woman heard a baby crying and

the sound was coming from a nearby black cloud. Changing Woman who was born of the darkness and of dawn was found in this cloud. When she grew up, she produced twin sons, Monster Slayer and Child of the Water. These twins relieved the world of monsters. Their mother, Changing Woman, also created the four primary Navajo clans.




Much credit is given to Randall Henderson as the father of Desert Magazine but equal share of the concept should go to J. Wilson McKenney. Both were editors  of independent print rags and on June 8,, 1936 while sitting on top of peak  Santa Rosa Mountain they decided to team up and launch Desert Magazine.

A family man needs to put food on the table,  J. Wilson Mckenney would pull out of the operation a few years later as the publication was in the red. He would continue on in his own publishing ventures.

Desert Magazine would not see a profit for quite a while, though they were able to keep afloat as they were running a print press (Desert Press) on the side.

Palm Desert was the creation of the Henderson brothers and would be home to Desert Magazine. The Building that housed Desert magazine still exist but instead of smelling ink, one smells steak as it became a restaurant , which closed a few years ago.

J. Wilson McKenney wrote a book Desert Editor (1972) as a biography to Randall. Page 68 of chapter 5 he states “The first press-run of Desert Magazine (1937)  was 7,000; twenty-one years later Henderson’s last order was for 32,000 copies. Pepper’s circulation now tops 50,000. With this growth, it is probable that Desert Magazine will survive and prosper into the distant future. But it won’t be Randall Henderson kind of Desert- and that’s the way it should be”.

In 1958 Randall would sell the whole operation to Charles E. Shelton, 5 years later it would be sold again to Jack and Choral Pepper. Desert Magazine would see a few more owners till it was put into bankruptcy by D. W. Grantham in 1985.

Randall can also be credited as one of the founders of the Desert Protective Council. In 1954 he served as President and Executive Director during its earlier years.

J. Wilson McKenney would have success with an annual publication called Out West and Wilmac Press, J. Wilson McKenney, Choral Pepper, 


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The Long Walk Home



As the settlers, miners and frontiers men migrated west, the conflicts between them and the Indians intensified. Between the years of 1805 and 1861 there had been at least thirty treaties signed by the Navajo and Mexico, and the United States. Since the Navajo was controlled by more than one leader, a treaty with one headman did not mean that all agreed. Therefore the conflicts continued.

Kit Carson, in 1863 was ordered to round up all the Navajo and relocate them to Fort Sumner, New Mexico Territory. The Navajo scattered about on their home ground and hid.

The history of the activities of both Navajo and the Army are in many written records, as are the deceit
and the many unkind orders issued by General James Carlson, commander of the Army’s Department of New
Mexico, to track down, round up and march the Navajos to their “new home”, more like a concentration camp.

The stronghold of the Navajo was Canyon de Chelly. Kit Carson was ordered to invade Canyon de Chelly
and destroy food, livestock and kill or capture the Navajo in their last stronghold.

Captain Albert Pfeiffer led a small force into the canyon from the east, while Kit Carson with the larger force entered from the west. From the canyon rims and ledges, half starved Navajos hurled rocks and pieces of
wood down upon the soldiers. They couldn’t stop the Army. In a week after entering the canyon the two troops met. They had not had a major fight. The dead count for the Navajo was fourteen by some accounts. A force of sixty ragged and emaciated Navajos surrendered. Before returning to Fort Canby (Defiance), Carson had his scorched earth policy put into action in the canyon. The troops de-stroyed everything they could, including
more than 5,000 peach trees which the Indians had grown and nurtured for over 250 years.

The destruction in Canyon de Chelly, the surrender, the killing of the animal herds and burning cultivated fields, left the Navajo with little but eminent starvation and death. As word spread throughout the land of the destruction the Navajo lost heart.

Faced with starvation many Navajo surrendered during the winter of 1863-64. They were marched on the
Navajo “trail of tears” 300 miles south- east to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Eventually, 8,000 Navajos made the

“Long Walk”.  


At the fort they lived in huts put together with the meager materials at hand. They were taught the White
Man’s way of farming. The elements were not with the tribe as each year insects, rains or draught ruined the
crops. The soil was alkali and the water was bad. Diseases overrode the tribe. 2,000 Navajos are said to
have perished. There was always a plea to return to their homeland and final1y in 1868, a federal peace commission headed by General William Sherman, arrived at Fort Sumner to hear the Navajo claims. The speaker for the Tribe was Barboncito. After three days another treaty was signed and the Navajo could at· last return to their sacred home

Dr. Forrest Shreve

The Desert Under A Microscope

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Dr. Forrest Shreve and his staff at the Desert Laboratory near Tucson are prying into the secrets of desert plant life.

HERE, THOUGHT I, is where I can unloose all those stored-up questions about desert life. Here before me is the man who knows all the answers. Questions came flying to my lips.

“Why doesn’t the giant sahuaro grow west of the Colorado river?” I heard myself asking.

I had heard this matter of the sahuaros much debated and had always believed that the giant cactus grew only on Arizona soil until I had stalked a few lonely specimens north of Picacho and others along the Riverside Mountains on the California side of the river. But as a general rule this picturesque cactus, bearing Arizona’s state flower, marches down to the edge of the Colorado River and there abruptly halts.

“They just don’t like the California air,” the Wise Man answered with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. Then after a short pause during which I blinked my eyes in astonishment, he added, “And then again, it may be that efficient California border patrol.”

This was too much. I had come to Tucson to talk with a scientist, scholar, musty pedagog, and here I found a tall, friendly out-of-doors man with a sense of humor. I began to be very glad I had come to see Dr. Forrest Shreve in the Desert Laboratory on the slope of Tumamoc hill.

“But seriously”, the Director continued, “We believe Cereus giganteus will not thrive in the Colorado and Mojave deserts because these regions do not have sufficient rainfall in the hot summer months to germinate the seeds. Some desert plants germinate in the winter, but not the sahuaro. Its seed must have both heat and moisture. In Arizona we have an average of twelve inches of rainfall a year, over half of it in the hottest summer months, while California desert regions get less than four inches a year, very little of which falls in summer. The river simply adds a final deciding barrier over which few of the sahuaros can hurdle.”

A friendly vibrant voice this man had —Forrest Shreve, scientist of the desert, who for more than 30 years has recorded his findings on Sonoran plant life in this massive stone house on Tumamoc hill. Tall and thin, he has the head of a scholar and the bearing of an out-of-doors man: he seems somehow

to combine the roles of philosopher and prospector. Dr. Shreve turned from his study table at the far side of a large well lighted room and advanced toward me quickly. Cordially he seated me and resumed

his place before the orderly table, lighting his ancient pipe leisurely, suggesting comfortably that we should have lunch with his wife and the staff before we got down to the serious business of discussing his work at the laboratory.

Arizona sunlight poured through the many windows, falling on orderly rows of bookcases, charts, graphs, photographs, and scientific instruments. Nowhere was there evidence of the cobwebby mustiness which, in the layman’s mind, is an essential element of the pedagog’s workshop.

I turned toward the spacious windows to look down on the roofs and spires of Tucson and the brown bulk of the Santa Catalina Mountains beyond.

What a beautiful site for the Desert laboratory! There before me, less than two miles away, lay the cultural capital of the Southwest and stretching in all directions from its borders lay the beautiful arboreal desert now famous throughout the world.

And this brown stone building—the Desert Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington—had housed the men who had done most, in a quiet unheralded way, to make these deserts famous. This much every desert dweller has heard. But the idea of a desert laboratory is remote and hazy to most of us. If we give it a second thought, we probably regard the place as a sort of cactus garden where super-gardeners tend their neatly-spaced plots of spiny plants.

But as I came up the steep grade to the buildings on the hill I saw no well-tended gardens. In fact the terrain looked just a little wilder than the desert around it, a sort of refuge where cottontails, quail, and lizards frolicked in unmolested freedom and the native plant life seemed more abundant. And this man before me—the director of this famous laboratory—certainly did not look like a gardener.

We had lunch—the laboratory staff, the little lady with the gray hair and voice of a girl, and the reporter. As Dr. Shreve described with the language of a scientist the pecularities of a certain desert plant, I wondered whether the little woman was following him. I had become lost about two courses back.

I thought she must be a very brave wife to have lived with this man so long and to have suffered these undecipherable descriptions so well. My doubt changed to admiration when I learned that Mrs. Shreve is a distinguished scientist in her own right and that she is the author of one of the most widely quoted papers listed by the institution!

Desert Magazine

He Knows Most of the Answers

 “What is the Desert Laboratory? Who started it and why? Why was it placed out here so far from the so called centers of culture? What do they do here? Who works here?” These and other elementary questions I fired at Dr. Shreve.

“Of course you are familiar with the story of Andrew Carnegie,” he began, “the immigrant boy who became one of America’s richest steel magnates and who left a fortune “to encourage in the broadest and most liberal manner investigation, research, and discovery, and the application of knowledge to the improvement of mankind.” Before he died Carnegie had established an institution which divided its scientific investigations into twelve departments in widely separated parts of the country. The

Desert Laboratory became one of the outposts of the Division of Plant Biology. The total Carnegie benefaction totaled about $25,000,000.”

The late Dr. F. V. Coville, chief botanist of the U. S. Department of Agriculture for more than 40 years, brought to the attention of the Institution the need for investigation in the field of plant life. He and Dr. D. T. MacDougal, then assistant director of the New York Botanical garden, were appointed to make an investigation of sites for a study of vegetation in arid lands. In 1903 they recommended Tucson because of the richly diversified character of desert vegetation in the vicinity and because of its accessibility to other desert areas.

Dr. MacDougal was named director of the Desert Laboratory but during the three years required for him to finish his work at New York, Dr. W. A. Cannon was made resident investigator at Tucson. Other scientists who have made valuable contributions to the world’s knowledge have spent some time at the laboratory, but Dr. MacDougal was for twenty years the driving force, inspiring projects of scholarly brilliance.

Retired from the laboratory ten years ago, Dr. MacDougal is now a resident of Carmel, California, where he is continuing his work with the Division of Plant Biology. Short of stature, solidly built, Dr. MacDougal has the brusque forcefulness of his Scotch ancestors. Yet he inspired unflinching loyalty and respect from the men who worked with him on the desert.

Desert Magazine

29 Years at Laboratory

 Dr. Shreve came to the Desert Laboratory in 1908, two years after Mac-Dougal took charge, and was placed incharge when MacDougal retired. Yet Dr. Shreve is not a commandant; he is rather a fellow student and colleague to the men who work under him. Asked abruptly about the ranking of the four men now working at the laboratory, Dr. Shreve said, “We don’t want a man here who doesn’t know what he is doing. Each man has his own interest and he can usually keep busy without specific direction from me.”

There is earnest-eyed young Dr. T.D. Mallery, who at 36 has the highest scholastic degree as a result of his studies on the osmotic movement of sap in Larrea (creosote bush). The factors he has formulated have a bearing on all desert plant life. With a physical build along the lines of a varsity halfback, this youthful scholar is human and practical in his attitude toward life in general and his work in particular. Twice a year “Tee Dee” takes a trek of several hundred miles over the desert to inspect his “string” of rain gauges. These gauges, located in isolated places, hold the secret of important data on rainfall and climate.

Then there is another young fellow, W. V. “Bill” Turnage, who has no vernacular like a veteran. And a veteran he really is, because he has been studying at the laboratory for seven years. Starting as a laborer on a concrete gang nearby, this young fellow who looks like a college sophomore read his own paper on desert climate to a distinguished session of the American Association for the Advancement of Science at Denver this summer. And just to fill in time while he worked “on the hill” these past seven years, Turnage completed his university course and crammed in a few graduate courses. He can squint at a cloud, tell you how high it is, where it came from, whether it will bring rain and any other data you may request. I concluded he would be a good man to have around on a summercamping trip in Arizona. There have been as many as four or five men—and occasionally a woman scientist—working at the laboratory at one time. But for several years Dr. Shreve “held the fort” alone.

Special line investigators, men whose work is supported by a scientific foundation or great university, sometimes spend from a few days to a few years at the laboratory. They each work independent of the other, yet each is aware of the other’s course.

Desert Magazine

Casual Visitors Not Encouraged

 Of the thousands of winter visitors who come to Tucson annually there may be a dozen or so who will inquireabout the way to the Desert Laboratory. Chances are they will have to ask a half dozen Tucsonians before they secure correct directions for the two mile drive. Obviously, casual visitors on Tumamoc hill are not encouraged.

The scientists prefer comparative isolation in order to preserve the fine balance of plant and animal life within the 800-acre tract.

It may be pertinent at this point to inquire why the layman, the average American citizen, should be interested in the work of the Desert Laboratory. Dr. Shreve admits frankly he does not believe his work of any interest to the layman. “But to the super-layman and interested student,” he added, “we have a unique institution, designed and intended for investigation of desert plants and conditions which surround them. There may be no immediate practical utility in the work we are doing but we are laying the groundwork for a new science, a mass of knowledge concerning a large portion of the earth’s surface about which we have hitherto known very little.

“This laboratory is unique in that there is no other like it in the world,” the director said. “Although there aremore than 200 marine laboratories in the world, created for the study of oceanic life, there are only three desert laboratories. One established and maintained by the Russian government at Repetek, Turkestan, has for its principal purpose the study of sandy soils from the standpoint of agricultural use. Another, maintained by the French government at Beni Unif, Algeria, is interested only in date culture. This Carnegie Institution Laboratory, then, is the only place where desert vegetation is studied in its native state from a purely scientific standpoint.”

Yet, while Dr. Shreve minimized the contribution of the laboratory’s work to the improvement of the desert dweller’s way of living, a perusal of the titles of the many papers prepared by the staff is evidence enough that there is great practical value there. For instance, Dr. Shreve wrote for the Headwaters Engineering Conference at Washington last year a paper describing the conditions and patient labor necessary to improve grazing on desert lands. His knowledge of the keen balance of life, of soil moisture, rainfall and runoff, climate and wind movement all contribute to a basic understanding of soil erosion. Indirectly, many of the other studies pursued at the laboratory will eventually aid agriculture and stock raising and improve living conditions on the desert.

More than 360 papers (a scientist’s term comparable to the newsman’s “story” and the magazine man’s “article”) have been produced by staff men at the laboratory. These articles describing work at the laboratory appear in magazines, scientific journals, school textbooks, Carnegie Institution news releases and books, and government publications. They are not always purely technical but they are usually “slanted” well above college essays.

For instance, one of the first works published by the Institution was a large volume by MacDougal and Coville called “Botanical Features of North American Deserts” which embraces 115 printed pages in describing areas of the southwestern deserts. The findings recorded in this book emphasized the timely and strategic location of the Desert Laboratory at Tucson.

Another monumental scientific work by MacDougal and associates was a book published in 1914 describing the Salton Sea Basin. And Shreve published a large volume describing the vegetation of a mountain range as conditioned by climatic factors. These and similar studies are the result of patient physical labor and ardous mental toil.

One of the productions in which Dr. Shreve displays much pride is the four volume work by Britton and Rose on “The Cactaceae” which gives “descriptions and illustrations of plants of the cactus family.” This monumental contribution has become the cornerstone for a nation-wide cactus and succulent hobby and the foundation for all works on the classification of cacti. Many of the papers deal with water relations in desert plants, the rate of intake and loss of moisture and the mechanism of control which makes it possible for plants of arid lands to withstand years of drought.

Desert Magazine

Time Means Nothing on Desert

 “Desert plants know how to mark time,” Dr. Shreve said. In that one short statement is a world of wisdom. “The plants we study have so adapted themselves to conditions that they can remain dormant during unfavorable conditions and then take advantage of every opportunity when moisture does come. These plants are so constituted that they can radically change their response to wide ranges of light, moisture, and temperature conditions. In fact the plants of our southwestern deserts have no descent relationship with the plants of any other desert in the world they are the product of their own environment.”

“Our job, then, is to find out where these plants came from. If they are found in no other part of the world, they must have come from surrounding advantageous areas and gradually crept into the arid lands as they were able to adapt themselves to the more extreme conditions. What changes took place when they came from their original home? What physiological adjustments took place? We are gradually linking the evidence together to give us an increasingly coherent answer to these questions.”

The scientists of the Desert Laboratory are not stay-at-home bookworms. Much of their time is spent in the field, traveling several thousand miles a year in studying desert vegetation from the great basin of Nevada and Utah to the high plains of the Mojave region, into the rocky fastnesses of the Chihuahuan desert, and into the arid regions of northwestern Mexico and Baja California.

Trip to Pinacates

 One of the first great expeditions of the laboratory staff was taken into the Pinacate region of northern Sonora in 1907. Dr. MacDougal was leader of the party of nine men, which included Godfrey Sykes and Dr. W. T. Hornaday. Sykes remained with the laboratory for many years and although he formally retired from active service in 1929, he is still actively pursuing hydrologic investigations along the Colorado and other southwestern streams. Dr. Hornaday died last March after a life dedicated to wild life conservation. He was the author of a penetrating and human book, “Campfires on Desert and Lava,” which is an account of the expedition into the Pinacate region.

This still partly unexplored area, named for a small beetle of the desert, embraces about 700 square miles of lava flow and more than a hundred craters of extinct volcanoes. Several craters, which now bear the names of members of the party, are more than a mile in diameter and have steeply precipitous sides. From this weird and fascinating desolation the party of explorers brought a story both novel and startling, one of the treasures of southwestern desert lore.

Since this memorable expedition, scientific parties have gone into the region a number of times, the most recent led by Dr. Shreve in the spring of 1936. Perhaps one of the reasons why the area remained unexplored for so long—and is incidentally an index of its aridity—lies in the fact that in an area of seven thousand square miles in which Pinacate peak is the center, there is a total population of less than fifty persons!

The Desert Laboratory is only thirty-five years old, a new-born babe in the eternity of desert time. And the men who labor there, seeming to realize the immensity of the work yet undone have chosen a life of research and study both intense and far-reaching. Here the desert is truly under a microscope and its closely guarded secrets are being brought to public view. Not now, perhaps, but soon, desert dwellers will give fervent thanks for the foresight of an immigrant boy and for the tenacity and intelligence of these desert men of science.

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