Excellent exhibits at this early Mormon ranch, southwest of Fredonia, provide a look into Paiute and frontier life. The abundant water here first attracted prehistoric Basket Maker and Pueblo tribes, who settled nearby more than 1,000 years ago, then moved on. Paiutes, who believe they're related to these people, arrived later and now live on the surrounding Kaibab-Paiute Indian Reservation; in earlier times, they spent summers on the Kaibab Plateau and winters near Pipe Spring.
Mormons found the spring in 1858 and began ranching five years later, despite Navajo raiders who occasionally stole stock and were suspected of having killed two Mormon men who pursued them. Raids ended after 1870 when Mormons and Navajo signed a treaty. Mormon leader Brigham Young then decided to move the church's southern Utah cattle herd to Pipe Spring. A pair of two-story stone houses went up with walls connecting the ends to form a protected courtyard; workers added gun ports just in case, but the settlement was never attacked.
The structure became known as Winsor Castle—the ranch superintendent, Anson P. Winsor, possessed a regal bearing and was thought to be related to the English royal family. Winsor built up a sizable herd of cattle and horses and oversaw farming and the ranch dairy.
A telegraph office—the first in Arizona—opened in 1871, bringing the rest of the world closer. Eventually, so many newlyweds passed through after marriage in the St. George Temple that the road past Pipe Spring became known as the Honeymoon Trail. In the 1880s, the Mormon Church came under increasing assault from the U.S. government, primarily over the practice of polygamy. Fearing that the feds would soon seize church property, the church sold Winsor Castle to a non-Mormon in 1895.
President Harding proclaimed Pipe Spring a national monument in 1923 "as a memorial of Western pioneer life." Today, National Park Service staff keep the frontier spirit alive by maintaining the ranch much as it was in the 1870s. Activities such as gardening, weaving, spinning, quilt making, cheese making, and butter churning still take place, albeit on a smaller scale. Guided tours of Winsor Castle depart frequently, and explain how people lived here in the early days. On your own, you can explore the gardens, cowboy shacks, and traditional Paiute shelters (kahn). Demonstrations of Paiute food and crafts, along with other special programs, take place mainly on summer mornings and on weekends in spring and autumn. The half-mile-loop Ridge Trail climbs the hill behind the ranch to a viewpoint, where signs describe the history and geology of the area. Paiute guides offer a walking tour to a nearby rock art site for a fee; call ahead on a weekday to the tribal office (928/643-7245). Pipe Spring National Monument lies north off AZ 389, 14 miles southwest of Fredonia.
Exhibits (928/643-7105, www.nps.gov/pisp, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, extended in summer, $4 age 17 and up) illustrate Paiute history and culture, as well as introduce the pioneers and cowboys who spent time here. A gift shop has a good selection of regional books, maps, and Southwestern Native American arts and crafts. Hikers may be able to obtain last-minute backcountry permits for the Grand Canyon National Park, a useful service for some North Rim destinations.
Campground and Services
Just northeast of the monument, the Paiute tribe operates a bargain-priced campground (928/643-7245 tribal office, $5 tent, $10 RV w/hookups). It's open year-round with showers, which are also available to non-campers for a small fee. Register with the campground host, gas station, or tribal office. There's a gas station/convenience store at the highway turnoff. The nearest restaurants and motels are in Fredonia and Kanab.
On to Fredonia