Some of Arizona's best outdoor recreation can be found on the White Mountain Apache Reservation, which spans more than 1.6 million acres. You have choices among many campsites, fishing streams, lakes, ski runs, and hiking trails. Farsighted planning and development by the White Mountain Apache resulted in the high-quality recreation available today. Though tribal permits are required for almost any activity, costs are reasonable. You don't need state licenses for fishing, boating, or hunting—just the tribal permits. Some areas, such as the summit of sacred Baldy Peak, are closed. Kinishba is the only prehistoric site that you may visit.
APACHE TRADITIONS AND CRAFTS
Driving through the Apache homeland, you might think their culture is gone—you see members of the tribe living in modern houses, frequenting the shopping centers, and working at regular jobs. But the Apache continue to use their own language and preserve the old traditions. Boys still study under medicine men to learn the prayers, rituals, and medicinal plants used in healing ceremonies. Elaborate coming-of-age ceremonies still mark the passage of young women into adulthood. Known as Sunrise Dances, these rites usually take place on weekends during summer; check local papers for dates or ask at the tribal offices in Whiteriver and San Carlos. Buckskin dresses, worn by women before the introduction of calico, are occasionally seen at Sunrise Dances.
Sightseeing, Camping, and Skiing
You'll need a $6 vehicle permit for a picnic or sightseeing stop on the reservation unless you've already obtained a tribal permit for camping, fishing, or other recreational activity; hikers, cyclists, or bus passengers pay $3 each. Camping facilities are basic, usually just picnic tables, fireplaces, and toilets, though some campsites offer drinking water. Backpacking is permitted in certain areas with the proper permit. Camping fees of $8/vehicle per night or $175/vehicle for 30 days must be paid in advance; hikers, cyclists, and bus passengers pay $3 each. A back road crosses into the San Carlos Apache Reservation at Black River Crossing, but you need special-use permits from both tribes to use it.
Sunrise Ski Area, with its many downhill runs, attracts ski enthusiasts in winter. Sunrise also offers snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and tubing. The tribe prohibits ATVs, horseback riding (except with authorized concessions), and swimming (except at hotels) everywhere on the reservation.
Boating and River Running
If you use a boat, you'll need a permit for it—$5 per day or $25 yearly for lake use. Sunrise is the only lake where gas motors (10 hp limit) are allowed; everywhere else you're limited to electrics.
Kayakers and rafters can enjoy a section of the Salt River Canyon, usually best run during the winter snowmelt from March to May. River runners doing the Salt River must obtain the proper permit, available at Salt River Canyon Trading Post on US 60, and have a suitable boat (no open canoes) and equipment. (See Salt River Canyon Wilderness in the Phoenix and South-Central Arizona chapter)
Fishing and Hunting
The reservation includes 400 miles of mountain streams and more than 25 lakes. Anglers can go out year-round; ice fishing is popular on lakes not closed for the winter. The waters are stocked with trout from Alchesay and Williams Creek National Fish Hatcheries.
Fishing licenses cost $6 per day or $65 per calendar year. Children ages 10–14 pay $3 per day or $32 for the year; children under 10 fish free but must be with an adult holding a fishing permit. An agreement with the San Carlos Apache Tribe honors the fishing permits from either tribe along both banks of the Black and Salt rivers where the reservations meet; a special-use permit is required. Certain lakes require special permits and can be rented by groups. You can arrange a guide for fishing or hunting trips; ask for names at Hon-Dah Ski and Outdoor Sport.
Plentiful big and small game roam the reservation. The tribe has established regular hunting seasons for elk, mountain lion, javelina, and pronghorn. You'll need a guide for hunting elk, lion, bear, and pronghorn—also lots of money. The guided hunts can run more than $1,000 a day, but participants report a high success rate. Smaller animals and birds are more easily bagged and don't require a guide.
The Apache enjoy participating in and attending rodeos, which take place on many weekends through the warmer months. The Tribal Fair and Rodeo on Labor Day weekend is the major annual event. Rodeos, powwows, and other area events are listed in the local paper, the Fort Apache Scout.
Staff at Hon-Dah Ski & Outdoor Sport (787 Hwy. 260, Pinetop-Lakeside, AZ 85935, 928/369-7669 or 877/226-4868, www.wmatoutdoors.org), 3 miles south of Pinetop, are the best source of information for recreation on the reservation; you can also obtain permits here. It's open daily year-round on the east side of the Hon-Dah Casino complex. You can also obtain information directly from the Game and Fish Department (next to the White Mountain Apache Motel in Whiteriver, P.O. Box 220, Whiteriver, AZ 85941, 928/338-4385). The free annual newsletter, White Mountain Apache Tribe Outdoor Recreation Regulations, can be picked up at these two places and at many area businesses and tourist offices. Other year-round places for permits on the reservation are Sunrise General Store/Sports Center and Salt River Canyon Trading Post. In summer, you can also secure permits at Horseshoe Lake, Reservation Lake, and Hawley Lake. Off-reservation sources include Pinetop Sporting Goods in Pinetop, K-Mart in Show Low, Western Drug in Springerville, and Tempe Marine in Chandler.
Watch for logging trucks on the reservation's many back roads. Some roads may be too rough for cars, especially after rain or snow. Staff at the Hon-Dah Ski and Outdoor Sport store or at Game and Fish can advise on current conditions. Most road junctions have signs, but it's a good idea to consult a map in finding your way around the back roads.
The Apache and the federal government disagree on the name of the reservation; government officials tend to use the term Fort Apache, while the Apache understandably prefer White Mountain Apache.
The Apache name for this travelers' center means "Be My Guest." It's 19 miles north of Whiteriver and three miles south of Pinetop at the intersection of AZ highways 260 and 73. Hon-Dah Resort Hotel (928/369-0299 or 800/929-8744, www.hon-dah.com) offers a hotel, restaurants, RV park, store/information center, gas station/convenience store, and casino. Hotel guests have use of a year-round pool, hot tub, and sauna. Rates for rooms run $89 d weekdays, $109 d Fri.–Sat.; suites are $150 d weekdays, $180 d Fri.–Sat.; reservations are recommended in summer. Timbers Lounge puts on entertainment Tuesday to Saturday.
Hon-Dah RV Park (across AZ 73 from the hotel, 928/369-7400 or 800/929-8744 ext. 7400, $21 w/hookups) offers year-round sites with showers, laundry, recreation room, phones, satellite TV, and store, but does not accept tents. Reservations are a good idea in summer and winter.
Indian Pine Restaurant (928/369-7552, daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, $7–18) offers mostly American dining from a buffet and menu at each meal; dinner buffets feature seafood on Friday and prime rib on Saturday. The adjacent Timbers Lounge hosts a big Sunday brunch and presents live entertainment Tues.–Sun. evenings.
Hon-Dah Ski and Outdoor Sport (928/369-7669 or 877/226-4868) provides information for recreation on the reservation and sells permits, sporting goods, and clothing. Open daily year-round on the east side of the Hon-Dah Casino complex; in winter, it offers a full-service ski and snowboard shop.
Though there's not much to see, this old lumber town has an unusual history. Back in 1916, an energetic Flagstaff businessman named Tom Pollock chose the spot for a new lumber enterprise. Leasing the land from the Apache, he ran a railroad line in and named the place "Cooley," after Corydon E. Cooley of the famous Show Low card game.
Meanwhile, 1,000 miles east in McNary, Louisiana, the W. M. Cady Lumber Co. was quickly running out of timbered land. So in 1924 Cady bought out Pollock's Apache Lumber Co. and moved practically the whole town westward to Cooley. Renamed McNary, the town became known for its harmonious mixture of blacks, whites, Latins, and Native Americans. When fire destroyed the sawmill in 1979, owners rebuilt 40 miles east near Eagar.
Trout swim in the waters of this 260-acre lake; in winter you can fish through the ice. Constructed in 1957, this was the first lake on the reservation designed for recreation. Services include a boat dock with rentals, service station/grocery store (928/335-7511), campground ($8) and RV park ($25); the store sells permits for fishing, camping, and other activities. The lodge (928/369-1753,) offers rooms ($65–250) and cabins ($109–159) from mid-May to the end of September.
From AZ 260, 11.3 miles east of Hon-Dah, turn south 11 miles on AZ 473; the first nine miles are paved. Despite the 8,200-foot elevation, the road is kept open year-round.
You'll need a special permit to fish at Earl Park Lake (47 acres), a half mile southeast of Hawley Lake.
You can fish on this 121-acre lake (elev. 8,100 feet) for rainbow, brown, and brook trout. In winter the road is cleared for ice anglers. Go 13.5 miles east of Hon-Dah on AZ 260, turn south at the sign, and follow the road one mile across the dam to the south side of the lake.
Anglers prize this 891-acre lake (elev. 9,200 feet) for its large brook trout. This is the only lake on the reservation where you can use gas motors, though limited to 10 horsepower. Sunrise Marina (behind the lodge, 928/735-7669, ext. 2155) offers boat and fishing-pole rentals, a paved boat ramp, and a few fishing supplies in summer.
Sunrise Park Lodge (928/735-7669 or 800/772-7669, $59 d standard, $79 d deluxe, $99 d spa suite in summer) features a restaurant (open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner), indoor pool, indoor and outdoor hot tubs, a sauna, and a volleyball area. The lodge closes for about six weeks at the end of the ski season in April, reopens for summer visitors from Memorial Day to mid-September, then closes again until the ski season starts. From AZ 260, 20 miles east of Hon-Dah or 18 miles west of Springerville, turn south 3.5 miles on AZ 273 to the hotel.
Scenic Lift Rides at the ski area take you to the heights 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Sat.–Sun. from about May 20 to Oct. 10; $10 adult, $5 age 12 and under. Mountain bikes and boards can be rented at the Sports Shop located at the ski lift.
Sunrise General Store/Sports Center (on the highway a half mile south of the lodge, 928/735-7335) sells groceries, permits, and gas.
Blue Sky Stables (928/735-7454) offers guided rides, hay rides, cookouts, and winter sleigh rides near Sunrise General Store.
An RV campground ($9) across the road from the store has electric hookups. Sunrise Campground ($8) is nearby, on the left just after turning onto the Sunrise Ski Area road.
Sunrise Park Resort Ski Area
This cluster of three peaks—Sunrise, Apache, and Cyclone Circle—boasts more than 65 ski runs winding through pine and aspen forests of the White Mountains. The resort (P.O. Box 217, McNary, AZ 85930, 928/735-7669 or 800/772-7669, www.sunriseskipark.com) offers great family skiing, with about 40 percent beginner, 40 percent intermediate, and 20 percent advanced terrain. A combination of one high-speed quad, two regular quads, four triples, one double, and two surface lifts keeps lines short. Snowmaking machines add to the natural snowpack for a season lasting from late November to mid-April. Sunrise also offers a snowboard park, Nordic trails system, tubing hill, and horse-drawn sleigh rides.
Lift rates are $41 full day ($24 juniors 12 and under), $33 half day ($19 juniors 12 and under), $20 seniors 65–69, and free seniors 70 and up. A season pass costs $600 ($375 juniors 12 and under) but drops to $425 and $300 if you buy it early. The resort offers group and private lessons, rentals, sales, and repairs. Child-care services feature indoor and outdoor activities for children ages 3–6 and babysitting for infants up to age two.
Sunrise Park Resort Ski Area offers package deals and family plans that include room and lift tickets. Room-only rates run $68–195 d, jumping to $124–295 d during the holiday season (mid-December to early January) and on some Fridays, Saturdays, and holidays.
Shuttle buses connect Sunrise Park Lodge with the ski lifts and a day lodge about every 15 minutes. Accommodations are tight during the ski season, and many skiers stay at Greer (15 miles to the east), Springerville (22 miles east), or Pinetop-Lakeside (30 miles west).
Sunrise General Store/Sports Center (on the highway a half mile south of the lodge, 928/735-7335) offers rentals of cross-country skis and snowshoes, cross-country ski lessons, and a nearby network of trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
This 280-acre lake, the second largest on the reservation, offers good fishing for rainbow, brown, and brook trout. Cool forests of aspen, fir, and spruce grow at the 9,000-foot elevation. A marina (928/521-7458) offers rental boats, supplies, and permits from late May to early September. Several campgrounds surround the lake.
The easiest way in is from the north: from Hon-Dah, take AZ 260 east 20 miles to AZ 273, head southeast on AZ 273 for 14 miles, turn south 10 miles on Forest Road 116, then turn right a half mile and cross a cattleguard to the lake. From Fort Apache, drive 46 miles east on Indian Routes Y-70 and Y-20 or take Y-55 and Y-20.
Alchesay and Williams Creek National Fish Hatcheries
These hatcheries keep the streams and lakes of the reservation stocked with trout. Williams Creek receives eggs from four or five species of trout, then raises the hatchlings to sportfishing size; large brood trout inhabit the raceways. Alchesay specializes in raising small native, rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout of 6–8 inches. Visitors are welcome to view exhibits and stroll along a self-guided tour on 7 a.m.–3:30 p.m. weekdays at both hatcheries; closed holidays. Alchesay also has a picnic area.
The turnoff for Alchesay Hatchery is four miles north of Whiteriver between Mileposts 342 and 343 of AZ 73; a signed paved road heads northeast along the White River 4.6 miles to the site. Roads to Williams Creek Hatchery turn off 13 miles north of Whiteriver, between Mileposts 351 and 352, and 15 miles north of Whiteriver (four miles south of Hon-Dah) between Mileposts 353 and 354; follow signs nine miles in on gravel roads.
The administrative center of the White Mountain Apache lies south of Hon-Dah in a valley at 5,000 feet, surrounded by high forested hills. It's easy to confuse the name of the town with that of the river flowing beside it, but the town is spelled as one word. Whiteriver has a motel, restaurant, shopping center, Indian Health Service Hospital, and tribal offices.
White Mountain Apache Motel (928/338-4927, $55 d) is just south of the shopping center. The motel's restaurant (daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, $7.50-18) offers American food and pizza. You can obtain information and permits next door at the tribal Game and Fish Department (P.O. Box 220, Whiteriver, AZ 85941, 928/338-4385, 8 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri.). White Mountain Apache Shopping Center, just south of the town center, includes a supermarket, stores, and post office.
Fort Apache and the Apache Cultural Center
In 1869, Major John Green selected this site near the confluence of the north and east forks of the White River as a supply base for troops in the field. Although the White Mountain Apache proved friendly, army officers thought it wise to keep an eye on them, meanwhile preventing white settlers from encroaching on Native American land.
Originally established as Fort Ord in 1870, the post's name changed to Camp Mogollon, then to Camp Thomas, and finally to Camp Apache—all within one year! Troops and Apache scouts rode out to subdue rebellious Apache in the Tonto Basin (1872–73), and then to fight Victorio (1879) and Geronimo (1881–86).
Alchesay, the most prominent Apache scout, became known for his honesty and dedication to both his people and the army. He helped put down rebellions of hostile tribes and assisted General Crook in making peace with Geronimo in 1886. Fort Apache saw its last major action during the Mexican Campaign (1916–17). In 1922, the U.S. Indian Service converted the fort to a boarding school, naming it in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt. Most of the first students were Navajo, though local Apache enrolled later. About 100 students now attend the school.
Many venerable buildings still stand along officers' row. At the west end you can enter the first commanding officer's quarters, built of logs in 1871 and used by General Crook; it's open 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri. with exhibits about the fort's scouts and soldiers. The final and grandest commanding officer's quarters dates from 1892, is built of stone, and sports a central tower. The adjutant's office near the east end of officers' row was built of adobe in 1876.
To learn about Apache history and culture, drop into the nearby Apache Cultural Center (928/338-4625, http://wmat.us, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., and Sat.–Sun. in summer, $5 adults, $3 seniors 65+ and students 7–17). Look for the conical roof. Museum exhibits interpret Apache culture and display fine examples of tribal crafts. The museum shop sells local baskets, cradleboards, and beadwork along with jewelry by other tribes, music, and books. Go southwest about five miles on the highway from the motel in Whiteriver, turn 0.7 mile left across the river, then left at the sign.
Kinishba is Apache for "Brown House." Prehistoric tribes built two large pueblos and smaller buildings here between 1232 and 1320. The mixed population came from areas of the Little Colorado, central Gila, and Salt Rivers. Residents abandoned the village about 1350, possibly because of insufficient water.
A University of Arizona team excavated the ruins from 1931 to 1939 and found 14 types of pottery and a great wealth of shell jewelry scattered across more than 700 rooms. Only one of the large structures has survived. Because it has not been stabilized, you may not enter, but you can view the ruins by walking a one-third-mile loop trail through the site. Before coming out, check in at the Apache Cultural Center and obtain a trail leaflet, which is the only permit that you need. From the Apache Cultural Center, return to the highway and turn left (west) 1.9 miles, then turn right at the sign on a dirt road; the ruins are two miles in (keep left at the fork 1.7 miles in).
This small town in the western part of the reservation serves as the center for the Cibecue Apache, a group distinct from the White Mountain and San Carlos Apache. For administrative purposes though, the Cibecue area is considered part of the White Mountain Reservation. Visitors can enjoy camping and good fishing for rainbow and brown trout in the upper 15 miles of nearby Cibecue Creek. The first fishing and camping spots lie five miles north of town on a dirt road paralleling the creek. Elevations average about 6,000 feet. You need a special use permit to drive past the town. To reach Cibecue, turn northwest on Indian Route 12 from US 60, eight miles south of Carrizo.
In the winter of 1880, a Cibecue medicine man named Noch-ay-del-klinne began preaching a new religion that predicted the expulsion of all white people. He soon gathered an enthusiastic following, worrying officers at Fort Apache. In August 1881, officers dispatched troops and 23 Apache scouts to arrest the medicine man. Fighting broke out upon their arrival at Cibecue, and Noch-ay-del-klinne was killed. The scouts then mutinied, joining the attack on the troops. Angry Apache pursued the survivors the entire 40 miles back to the fort. Captain Hentig and six other soldiers died in what's believed to be the only revolt by Apache scouts in their 75 years with the army.
Salt River Canyon
Father Eusebio Francisco Kino visited this colorful canyon in 1698, naming it Salado for the salt springs in the area. There are great views of the canyon from US 60 as the highway swoops down to a bridge 48 miles southwest of Show Low. You can explore further by driving on the dirt road that parallels the river. This route is highly scenic, with towering cliffs above and the river below. Take the turnoff just north of the highway bridge until you come to a fork. At the fork, you can turn left and drive under the bridge a half mile upriver to Apache Falls, or bear right four miles on the road downstream to Cibecue Creek. The road is rough in spots but passable for cautious motorists.
The desert country here at 3,000 feet contrasts sharply with the White Mountains, a short drive north. Saguaro cacti grow on the slopes to the right past the ford on Cibecue Creek. Don't cross if the water is fast-flowing and muddy.
The Salt Banks, three miles past Cibecue Creek, are a long series of salt springs that have deposited massive travertine formations. Minerals and algae color the springs orange, red, and dark green. This site has long been sacred to the Apache, who draw salt here and perform religious ceremonies. It's closed to the public. Past the Salt Banks, the road begins a steep climb, becoming too rough for cars. The White Mountain Apache have established several primitive campsites (no drinking water) along the Salt River between the highway bridge and Cibecue Creek. You can hike up the creek about 0.75 mile to a waterfall, but only guided trips can go canyoneering above this point. Salt River Canyon Trading Post, near the highway bridge, stocks supplies and permits. Anglers on the Salt River catch mostly channel catfish and some smallmouth bass and bluegill.
Why did Apache with the U.S. Army fight other Apache? Western Apache bands in central Arizona felt little tribal identity with eastern (Chiricahua) bands of southeastern Arizona and adjacent New Mexico and Mexico. Apache rivalries made it easy for the army to recruit.
As warriors, the Apache scouts took naturally to soldiering. They already knew their own methods of fighting, so they needed little formal training. Scouts enjoyed the prestige of having weapons and the freedom to travel, unlike their reservation-bound brethren. They realized that cooperation with the army and government officials provided a better alternative than risking deportation, which both the Navajo and the Chiricahua Apache suffered.
Pay provided another inducement—scouts received the equivalent of a regular soldier's pay and they could claim horses, mules, and equipment captured from renegade Apache. They also sought to pick up knowledge from the Anglo soldiers to share with their own society.
Apache could enlist for terms of three, six, or 12 months. They formed units of 250 men commanded by regular army officers and Apache noncommissioned officers.
On to San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation