March 2006: Catalina State Park


Tucson, Arizona

A small Hohokan Indian village was estab-lished on a wide ridge above Sutherland Wash, now known as Romero Ruin, about 1,500 years ago. The small community flourished for more than 1,000 years before being abandoned. The early Spaniards called the Santa Catalina Moun-tains "La Inglesia" for their cathedral-like appearance. The first European settlement in these foothills came around 1850 when cattle ranchers Francisco and Victoriana Romero established a homestead along the wash. The ranch grew to 5,000 acres but did not survive two generations. Gradually the forgotten property came to the attention of scientists and historians. In 1983 Catalina State Park, sprawling across 5,483 acres, was established, including 34 distinct archeological sites.

Eight trails of varying length and difficulty traverse the park's more than 8 square miles. Most - including the longer and most strenuous hikes - are off-limits to dogs. The best canine hike at Catalina State Park is the 2.3-mile Canyon Loop Trail that visits the differing habitat types found in this beautiful desert terrain. The trail rolls gently up and down through riparian arroyos and past stands of stately saguaros. Keep an eye to the sky for a chance to see any of the more han 170 species of birds that call the park home. The loop winds up with an unexpected hidden stream complete with a delightful doggie swimming hole.

Nearby is the spectacular Saguaro National Park. This is not a canine hiker's paradise but dogs are allowed on short, paved trails so you can get out and walk among these marvelous giants.

The park is located on State Highway 77 (Oracle Road) at mile marker 81, just 9 miles north of Tucson.