AMTRAK ROUTE GUIDE #40a -- Los Angeles, California to El Paso, Texas
Part 5 - Maricopa to Tucson
Yuma to Maricopa
Tucson to Lordsburg


415    MARICOPA station, 19427 N. John Wayne Parkway.  Elevation approximately 1176.  This is the AMTRAK station which serves Phoenix, which is located approximately 30 miles north of here.  The former Southern Pacific line (now Union Pacific) through Phoenix was abandoned by AMTRAK several years ago due to deteriorated track conditions, and the so-called “Gila Bend line” was then used by AMTRAK.  Until 2005, a restored dome car from the old California Zephyr was used as the Maricopa station.  The city of Maricopa is now considerably larger than what is shown on the accompanying topographic maps.

         Maricopa was named after the Maricopa Indians, and is the 2nd most populous incorporated city in Pinal County, and the 18th most populous in the State.  The city got its start as the community of Maricopa Wells, several miles north of here.  Maricopa Wells had an abundant supply of water from deep wells for passengers and horses of the San Antonio-San Diego Mail and later the more famous Butterfield Overland Mail stage lines.  In 1879, the city moved to the site of nearby Heaton (see MP 410 above), from where a rail line was once proposed to be built to Phoenix.  In the 1880’s, the city moved to its present location, and the Maricopa & Phoenix Railroad was completed in 1887.  The city of Maricopa, however, was not officially incorporated until October 15, 2003.

          Maricopa today is a largely residential area.  It was once the home of Actor John Wayne.

418.5-419 On the right (eastbound) is the former site of the Maricopa Feed Lots

420-420.5 Large feed lot is now visible on the right (eastbound)

422.5 Cross the normally-dry Santa Cruz Wash.

424    On the left is the small Ak-Chin Phoenix Regional Airport (not shown on accompanying topographic map).  On the right adjacent to the railroad is the East Main Canal, used for agricultural irrigation.

425    Pass through Bon, the site of a former Southern Pacific station named after the railroad’s Chief Dispatcher H.G. Bonorden.

430    In the distance on the left (eastbound), past the group of buildings, is the small abandoned Casa Grande Copper Mine.  The copper was mined from the Late Cretaceous- to Early Tertiary-aged (60 to 100 million years old) porphyritic granite deposits

432    Cross Santa Cruz Wash again

433.5 In the distance on the left (eastbound) is Burgess Peak, a small peak composed of Early Proterozoic (Middle Precambrian) aged metamorphic rocks, including schist, phyllite, and other metamorphosed sedimentary rocks.  Note the large water tank on top of the peak.

435-437 Pass through Casa Grande, whose name means “big house” in Spanish.  The city was named after the Hohokam Indian Ruins at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, located approximately 20 miles north of here.  The city was founded in 1879 after the Southern Pacific Railroad came through here, and copper and other metals were discovered nearby.  Casa Grande was initially known as “Terminus,” meaning “end of the [railroad] line, but was changed to Casa Grande in 1880.  In 1886 and 1893, fires devastated all the wooden structures in town, and the town was nearly abandoned.  Agriculture soon took over, however, and is still a prominent activity in the area. The town was incorporated in 1915.  Casa Grande is the home of the Casa Grande Valley Historical Society and Museum.

         Since Casa Grande is located approximately halfway between Phoenix and Tucson, it is the home of many workers who commute to either Phoenix or Tucson daily, on Interstate 10.

          As agriculture increased during the 20th Century, and more and more ground water was continually being withdrawn from agricultural wells in the dry desert, in several areas, the excessive pumping of the ground water depleted the aquifer and thus resulted in several large cracks and subsidence fissures in the earth’s crust in this part of Arizona.  Secondary effects of the overpumping of the aquifer included a decrease in water supply for communities such as Phoenix, Casa Grande, and others, who relied on ground water for their survival.

         To alleviate these problems, and to assure a reliable water supply for this part of the State, the Central Arizona Project was started in 1973.  This project encompassed a 336-mile system of aqueducts and canals designed to safely and efficiently bring water from the Colorado River, at Lake Havasu City, into central Arizona, ending at Tucson. The project was initially signed into law as the Colorado River Basin Project Act of 1968, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.  In 1994, most of the project was complete.

439   Pass through Arizola, which was established in 1862, and named by a man from Missouri named Thomas, whose daughter was named Ola, so he made up the name by combining his daughter’s name with “Arizona,” and the name became Arizola.  Arizola was the home of James Addison Reavis, “the Baron of Arizona.”  Reavis was a notorious fraudster and con man, who forged a fictional claim to the large Peralta land grant in the area, then generated a series of fictional documents which were put into land records archives, claiming how he had obtained these properties.  He filed a second claim after marrying a local girl, Sofia, and convincing her that she was the last lineal descendant of the original land grantee.  The 1858 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo required that the United States recognize and honor all land grant claims made earlier in the area, when this part of the Nation was still part of Mexico. All the grantees had to do was to produce some sort of documentation that they were in fact the grantees of the properties.

         In 1893, Reavis went to trial after a calligrapher ascertained that the print used on Reavis’ forged documents was actually not invented until very recently, and thus could not have been the print style on the original Mexican land grants.  Reavis spent 2 years in the New Mexico State Penitentiary for his scheme.  His wife Sofia believed she was truly a baroness until her death in the 1930’s.

441    Pass beneath Interstate 10, which we will be following all the way to El Paso.  On the right (eastbound) can be seen the Casa Grande Mountains, which are composed of Early Proterozoic-aged metamorphic rocks, including schist, gneiss, and other metamorphosed sedimentary rocks.

          The small hill visible on the left (eastbound) in the distance is composed of the same types of rocks as the Casa Grande Mountains.

443    The Toltec Buttes are visible on the left (eastbound), and are composed of Proterozoic-aged granitic rocks.

444    We are now crossing the Picacho Basin, a flat, dry area underlain by thick layers of sand, gravel, and various alkali minerals and salts.

446    Pass through Toltec, which was named after the ancient Toltec people of Mexico.

448.5 Cross Santa Rosa Canal, a major distributary canal for agricultural irrigation water.

450-451 Pass through Eloy, whose name is taken from the Syrian word “Eloi” meaning “my God.” In 1902, the Southern Pacific Railroad built a switch just south of here (see MP 454 below), and named the junction Eloi.  In 1916, the town’s name was changed to” Cotton City,” since by that time, cotton was grown in abundance in the area.  The railroad did not accept the Cotton City name; therefore, the tow’s name was changed back to Eloy, after the Spanish pronunciation of the original “Eloi” name.

454    The track leading north from here (left if eastbound) marks the former route of the Sunset Ltd prior to 2001, when the train used the route through Phoenix.

455    Pass through Picacho, named after the Picacho Mountains. The word “picacho” is Spanish for “peak.”

458    The Picacho Mountains are now visible on the left (eastbound). The part of the range visible from here is composed of granitic rocks of various ages, from Late Cretaceous to Early Tertiary age, while the far northern parts of the range, not visible from the train, are composed of very old Middle Precambrian, Early Proterozoic-aged granite.

461    Pass through Wymola, also known as Wynola.  To the south (right if eastbound) is the very prominent Picacho Peak, which is composed of faulted and tilted Oligocene- to Miocene-aged intrusive volcanic rocks.  It was formerly believed to be a volcanic neck; that is, the eroded inner core of the lava column within an ancient volcano.  More recent studies, however, have shown that it is composed of intrusive volcanic rocks, as stated, which have been extensively faulted and tilted on edge.

462.5 The Picacho Peak State Park Interchange is visible on Interstate 10 on the right (eastbound).  In the park is a monument to the debatably westernmost battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Picacho Pass.  The Battle of Stanwix Station (see MP 337 above) actually took place further west; however, it was not as significant or well-known as the Battle of Picacho Pass.

         The Battle of Picacho Pass took place on April 15,1862, near a remount station on the Butterfield Overland Mail Route.  It was fought between a Union Army contingent from California and a Confederate group from Tucson.  12 Union cavalry troopers and one scout, commanded by Lieutenant James Barrett of the 1st California Cavalry, were conducting a sweep of the Picacho Peak area, looking for Confederates reported to be nearby.  The Arizona Confederates were commanded by Sergeant Henry Holmes.  Barrett was under orders not to engage them, but to wait for the main column to come up. However, “Lt. Barrett, acting alone rather than in concert, surprised the Rebels and should have captured them without firing a shot, if the thing had been conducted properly."  Instead, in mid-afternoon the lieutenant "led his men into the thicket single file without dismounting them.  The first fire from the enemy emptied four saddles, when the enemy retired farther into the dense thicket and had time to reload .. Barrett followed them, calling on his men to follow him." Three of the Confederates surrendered. Barrett secured one of the prisoners and had just remounted his horse when a bullet struck him in the neck, killing him instantly.  Fierce and confused fighting continued among the mesquite and arroyos for 90 minutes, with two more Union fatalities and three troopers wounded.  Exhausted and leaderless, the Californians broke off the fight and the Arizona Rangers, minus three who surrendered, mounted and carried warning of the approaching Union army to Tucson.  Barrett's disobedience of orders had cost him his life and lost any chance of a Union surprise attack on Tucson.

         Every March, Picacho Peak State Park hosts a re-enactment of the Civil War battles of Arizona and New Mexico, including the Battle of Picacho Pass.  The re-enactments now have grown so large that many more participants tend to be involved than took part in the actual engagements, and now include infantry units and artillery as well as cavalry.

         Picacho Peak is prominent on the right (eastbound) now.

463    Note the “Picacho Peak RV Resort” located along I-10 on the right (eastbound) in front of the State Park.

469    Pass through Red Rock, established in 1881 and named for a prominent red peak nearby.  The town was formerly known as Redrock.  When the railroad came through here, they built a spur line from Red Rock (now abandoned) to the Silver Bell Mine south of here.

         South of Red Rock is the Avra Valley, where descendants of Don Pedro Aguirre, a very successful early rancher, still successfully run cattle in the area.

471    On the left (eastbound) is a power plant here at Avra siding.  “Avra” is a Papago Indian word meaning “big plain.”  In the distance to the west (right if eastbound) are the Silver Bell Mountains, named after the Silver Bell Mine.  The mountains are composed of Proterozoic-aged granite flanked by much younger, faulted Tertiary and even Quaternary-aged volcanic rocks.

475    On the right in the distance is the Marana Air Park, formerly known as Marana Army Air Field,  The Air Field was established during World War II, and was used as an air transport basic training school for multi-engine transports and bombers.  The base was deactivated in 1945, and currently is used primarily for storage of old aircraft.

475.5 Enter PIMA County, named after the Pima Indians who lived in the area.  It is the second most populous county in Arizona.  Pima County was one of the first counties organized in Arizona, and was established within lands acquired from Mexico in 1853 as part of the Gadsden Purchase.  The Pima County seat is Tucson, and most of the population of the county lives in the Tucson area. Pima County is also the home of several Native American communities.

479-480 Pass through Marana, whose name is from the Spanish wordmaraña, which means “thicket,” since the early railroad workers had to cut through dense thickets to lay the railroad line through here. The railroad station was established in the 1890’s, and the original name of the community was Postvale, named after an early investor named Post who drilled some irrigation wells here.

          In the early days of Marana, mining was an important activity in the area.  After World War I, the area became primarily agricultural. There are many ancient archeological sites around the Marana area, and it has been estimated that the area has been continually inhabited for approximately 4200 years.  Between 1990 and 2000, Marana was the 4th fastest growing community in Arizona.

484-484.5 Pass through Rillito, whose Spanish name means “little river.”  The Anasazi Stone Company, visible through the trees on the right (eastbound), manufactures Portland cement from limestone quarried at Picacho de Calera (“Twin Peaks”), which are the low hills visible in the distance on the right (eastbound).  Paleozoic time extended from approximately 570 to approximately 245 million years ago; the USGS reference map used does not subdivide the formations composing Picacho de Calero any further.

         Visible on the left (eastbound) are the Tortolita Mountains (“Tortolita” is Spanish for “little doves”).  These mountains are composed of Late Cretaceous- to Miocene-aged (100 million to 6 million years old) granitic rocks, which have been uplifted by block faulting.  At the northern end of the range (not visible from train) are much older Proterozoic-aged metamorphic rocks.

486   The hills on the right (eastbound) are composed of Oligocene- to Miocene-aged intrusive volcanic rocks.

489-490 Pass through Cortaro, whose name is Spanish for ”to cut off.”  We are now entering the metropolitan area of Tucson.  The normally dry Santa Cruz River is visible on the right (eastbound).

492    Pass through Kino siding, which was named after Fr. Eusebio Francisco Kino, a Jesuit missionary who first visited the Tucson area in the 1690’s, and who eventually founded the Mission San Xavier del Bac in 1700.

          On the left (eastbound) is the Cañada del Oro (“Canyon of Gold), which is normally dry; however, placer gold has been found in the stream in historic times, if there is enough flow in the stream to carry the gold.

          Looking up the canyon, the Tortolita Mountains are visible on the left of the canyon (see MP 484 above), and the Santa Catalina Mountains are visible on the right of the canyon.  The Santa Catalinas are geologically similar to the Tortolitas, and are also a fault block mountain, like the Tortolitas.  The downfaulted valley between the two ranges, which makes up the Canyon, is known as a graben.  This graben has filled with sediments and sedimentary rocks of Tertiary age.

          The highest peak in the Santa Catalina Mountains in Mt. Lemmon, at 9157 ft.  Mt. Lemmon is Tucson’s only downhill ski area.

493.5 Cross the normally dry Rillito River, which empties into the Santa Cruz River just west of the railroad (right if eastbound).

495.5 Pass through Jaynes, established around 1890 and named after Southern Pacific Railroad official Allen B. Jaynes.

496    Note large wastewater treatment plant on right (eastbound).

500   The Santa Cruz River is adjacent to the railroad on the right (eastbound).  Note Tucson’s Riverview Park across the river.

501.5 TUCSON station, 400 N. Toole Avenue.  Elevation approximately 2396 ft.  The station was built in 1907, then restored in 2004 to its 1942 appearance.  In addition to AMTRAK, the historic station now also houses office space, a gallery, a restaurant, and a transportation museum.  Tucson is the county seat of Pima County, and is the second largest city in Arizona, after Phoenix.  It is located in the Southwestern United States “sun belt,” and claims 3800 hours of sunshine per year.  It is sometimes known as “The Old Pueblo.”

          The name Tucson likely comes from either the Pima Indian words “Sluyk-son” or the Papago words “Stryuk-zone,” both meaning “dark or black spring.”

          Paleo-Indians are believed to have lived in this area since at least 12,000 years ago.  Between 600 AD and 1450, the Hohokam Indians lived here and built extensive irrigation canals for agricultural use.  The first European to visit the area was Jesuit Missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino, who built the Mission San Xavier del Bac in 1700.  In 1821, when Mexico gained independence from Spain, Tucson was part of Mexico.  During the Mexican-American war in the 1840’s, the city was captured by the Mormon Battalion, who was assisting the government in returning the Mexican-held lands to the United States.  The area was later returned to Mexican control, however.  Tucson then became a part off the 1858 Gadsden Purchase, and not part of the lands seceded to the United States by Mexico after the war.  Shortly after the war, Tucson became a stage station on the San Antonio-San Diego stage line as well as the Butterfield Overland Mail line.  During the U.S. Civil War, Tucson was the Western Capital of the Confederacy.  In 1862, the California Column drove the Confederates out of Arizona (see MP 462.5 above – the Battle of Picacho Pass).

         In 1885, the University of Arizona, was founded as a land-grant college on over-grazed ranch land between Tucson and Fort Lowell. In 1912, Arizona gained Statehood.  In its history, Tucson has existed under the flags of Spain, Mexico, the U.S. Confederacy, and the United States.  During the territorial and early statehood periods, Tucson was Arizona's largest city and commercial center, while Phoenix was the seat of state government (beginning in 1889) and agriculture.

         Because of the sunshine, dry air, mountains, and rich fertile desert land, Tucson is a popular destination for vacationers as well as retirees.  Among its many cultural, natural, and historical attractions are the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, the University of Arizona and Arizona State Museum, Old Tucson Movie Studios, Mission San Xavier del Bac, Pima Air & Space Museum (see MP 510 below), Tucson Botanical Gardens, Fort Lowell Museum, Tucson Mountain Park, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (see MP 505.5 below), plus two Native American owned casinos, the Casino of the Sun, and the Desert Diamond Casino.  The city sis also home of the annual Tucson Gem & Mineral Show, Tucson Festival of Books, Tucson Folk Festival, Tucson Rodeo, Fourth Avenue Street Fair, and other events.

                                                                                               Tucson was the home of Planned Parenthood Founder Margaret Sanger, as well as mobster Joseph Bonanno, actresses Barbara Eden and Farrah Fawcett, television personalities Savannah Guthrie and Geraldo Rivera, singers John Denver and Linda Ronstadt, musicians Van Clyburn and Duane Eddy, U.S. Senator Gabrielle Giffords, former Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall. astronaut Frank Borman, and many others.