Throwback Thursday: Arizona Highways, March 1973

From the issue: "Arizona's state flower is the rich, waxy, white blossom of the Saguaro Cactus. Some grow as high as 50 feet, with 60 arms, weigh an estimated 10 tons and live hundreds of years. The Saguaro is the largest cactus found in the United States." Photo by Earl Petroff.

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Kids in Focus Partners With Arizona Science Center

A Kids in Focus participant lines up a shot. | Courtesy of Kids in Focus

A Phoenix-based nonprofit that uses photography to help at-risk kids has partnered with the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix on a new exhibit.

On Friday, April 7, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Kids in Focus, founded by Arizona Highways contributor Karen Shell, will unveil 60 photos made by this year's class of 30 at-risk youths at the Science Center's CREATE space (600 E. Washington Street).

The photographs are the culmination of an eight-week program for the students, who were mentored by 14 professional photographers during classroom lessons and photo shoots at locations around the Phoenix area. The students attend Children First Leadership Academy and the Bob & Renee Parsons Branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix.

In a news release, Shell says learning photography skills helps the students, who all live at or below the poverty line, to see beyond their circumstances. "The kids are empowered to explore, to trust and to see the world in a new light," she says. "The kids learn to see the world differently, changing their perspectives about themselves and their environment."

The exhibit will include the students' biographies, their photos and the accompanying captions they wrote. They'll be on display through June 11 at the Science Center. Images by the students will also be displayed at the Children's Museum of Phoenix in June and July, at the state Capitol from March through May, at Sky Harbor International Airport from March through September, and at Burton Barr Central Library in September and October.

For more information about Kids in Focus, visit

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Q&A: The Rare Crested Saguaro

Crested saguaros exhibit a rare mutation whose cause remains unknown. | Courtesy of National Park Service

When you think about Arizona's landscape, the saguaro cactus is one of the quintessential images that come to mind — and Saguaro National Park, the subject of our March issue, celebrates this iconic Arizona plant. Saguaros are rarely symmetrical, but on even rarer occasions, an anomaly causes the tips to grow in a splayed, fan-like shape. These are the elusive crested saguaros — also known as cristate saguaros. It's not known why this mutation occurs, although scientists have a few theories.

Joe Pleggenkuhle and other saguaro enthusiasts joined forces to create the Crested Saguaro Society, dedicated to locating, cataloging and teaching people about these rare saguaros. We asked him a few questions about his passion. (This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.)

When was the first time you came across a crested saguaro?
My first crested saguaro I saw was on a tour of the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden. My first wild crested saguaro I found was in Yavapai County — it's a double crested saguaro. My niece had heard that I found a champion saguaro, and she wanted to see it, so I showed it to her. I was explaining to her that there were crested saguaros, too, and she points over my shoulder and says, “You mean like that?”

I had never heard of a double crested saguaro, so I started writing several places, and I believe Arizona Highways sent me an article that included a double crested saguaro many years ago.

When you first saw the one on the tour, did you know what it was right away?
No, but the tour guide did a great job of explaining what it was.

What are some of the theories about what causes this mutation to happen?
Many theories of what causes it. Frost; insect infestation; damage from birds, animals, people, weather, power lines. Mine is that the top or tip's growth pattern gets disturbed, and it changes from a circle to being elongated with a seam.

How many of these saguaros has the society cataloged?
Roughly 3,000. More if you count other crested cactuses.

How many in Saguaro National Park?
I’ve heard 48, but I suspect there are more than that in both the east and west parks and in Tucson Mountain Park.

How did the Crested Saguaro Society get started? 
That’s a good question. A person in Tucson was documenting them, and his health was declining, and a couple from the Southern Arizona hiking club sort of picked up where he had left off. They soon were giving presentations of their crested saguaro finds to their club. One of the other members, Rex, sort of got us together and named us the Crested Saguaro Society.

There isn’t a lot of information as to where people can find a crested saguaro; is there a reason?
We do love our crested saguaros, but several have been dug up or vandalized, so we don’t publish GPS locations of any of them. A fair amount of them are on private property. Some are located in steep, remote canyons.

— Roman Russo

To learn more about the Crested Saguaro Society or get involved with the group, visit its website.

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Restrictions, Nighttime Closures Planned for SR 89A Project

The scenic drive through Oak Creek Canyon will be a little harder to reach from Flagstaff this year. | Jeff Kida

A plan to improve safety and traffic flow on the road between Flagstaff and Sedona will mean lane restrictions and road closures until the fall, the Arizona Department of Transportation says.

A federal project is adding right-turn and passing lanes, plus wider shoulders, to an 8-mile stretch of State Route 89A. The section of the road is between J.W. Powell Boulevard, just south of Flagstaff, and Oak Creek Vista, a popular viewpoint into Oak Creek Canyon. In addition to the work on the roadway itself, ADOT plans to flatten slopes along the road, allowing drivers to regain control of their vehicles if they leave the roadway.

Starting today (Monday, March 20), the stretch of SR 89A will be closed from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. nightly. On weekdays, it will be reduced to one lane from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. During those times, flaggers and a pilot car will guide drivers through the work zone, ADOT says. (The scenic drive through Oak Creek Canyon, recently featured in Arizona Highways, won't be affected by the closure.)

For those looking to avoid delays and closures, ADOT recommends using Interstate 17 and State Route 179 to travel between Flagstaff and Sedona. There will be no restrictions on SR 89A on weekends or major holidays, the department says.

For more information about the project, visit

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Throwback Thursday: Arizona Highways, March 1956

From the issue: "'Hoover Dam' by Cliff Segerblom. 4x5 Speed Graphic camera, Ektachrome film, 1/10th of a second at f.22. This photograph was taken showing the downstream face of the dam from the lower portal road. The wall outlet valve on the Arizona side of the canyon wall is in operation."

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Q&A: The Story Behind an Iconic Sonoita Sculpture

This metal sculpture greets visitors to Sonoita along State Route 83.

The February issue of Arizona Highways featured a Where Is This? item familiar to residents of the Sonoita and Patagonia area: a metal cutout sculpture called Gathering Strays. The artwork, designed by sculptor and Sonoita resident Deborah Copenhaver Fellows, has been along State Route 83 just north of Sonoita since early 2008. It depicts a cowboy on horseback guiding a cow and a calf. From afar, the sculpture could almost fool you, because at sunset, it looks like the silhouette of a cowboy riding by.

This sculpture has become an iconic symbol of the Sonoita countryside. And readers of Arizona Highways might recognize Copenhaver Fellows' name — J.P.S. Brown wrote about her in our October 2016 issue. We asked her about her creation and how it came to life.

Tell us about the sculpture and how that project came about.
The Chamber of Commerce got in touch with me here in Sonoita, I think in about 2005, and they asked me to do signage for the communities of Elgin, Sonoita and Patagonia. Two signs for Sonoita, two signs for Patagonia and one sign for Elgin. They asked me to design them, and I said, “Sure, I’ll do it, but I have one request: If I design all of those signs, would you allow me to do a large cutout of a cowboy driving a cow and calf?” And they said yes.

My point was, no matter what happens in this country down here, there would always be a cowboy on horseback driving a cow and calf.

How long did the sculpture take you, and how did that process work?
It was about three months. I did the design for it, and a company called T.A. CAID did the cutouts in Tucson. I did the graphics, and they did the cutouts. I sent it to them; they pointed it up, which means they made my drawings larger, and cut it out of quarter-inch steel. Then we had local individuals that created the frames, and then we put it up here in Sonoita, on the stand-up bars.

It was fun finding a spot for it where it reads so well in the sunset and the morning light.

About how big is the cutout?
From the tail of the horse to the tip of the calf’s nose, it’s about 34 feet long. It’s huge.

What other sculptures and cutouts do you have around Sonoita?
Cutouts for signage for the welcome signs in Elgin, Sonoita and Patagonia. I have a monument of a cowboy on horseback down at the fairgrounds here in Sonoita — it’s a tribute to the cowboy and ranching. I have an interesting one in Elgin, which is our wine country, of three women that are stomping grapes, and it’s humorous.

A year ago, in February, I made the Barry Goldwater that’s in the U.S. Capitol building, in Statuary Hall. Quite often, on the interviews in the evening, you’ll see the long-standing bronzes behind the interviewers and interviewees, and one of mine is there right now, I was commissioned by the state of Arizona to do that.

What other projects are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on an 8-foot cast-bronze monument for the city of San Antonio.

What kind of feedback have you had from the community about your creation?
I think they’re pretty happy with it. They use it a lot for postcards and advertising. It symbolizes the whole neighborhood.

— Emily Balli

For more on Deborah Copenhaver Fellows' work, visit the Fellows Studios website. And to read more about Sonoita and Patagonia, pick up a copy of our April issue, on newsstands now.

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Help Grand Canyon National Park Celebrate Earth Day

Kip Marie Photography | Grand Canyon

The annual Earth Day celebration at the Grand Canyon is coming up next month — and park officials are looking for businesses and organizations that want to participate.

Grand Canyon National Park will host the celebration from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 22, at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center Plaza. The event's activities will focuse on waste reduction and finding ways to reduce, reuse and recycle to protect the environment, the park said in a news release.

Organizers say they're looking for 10 to 12 organizations or businesses from outside the park to participate in the event. Applicants must fill out and submit an information sheet that will be reviewed by the park's Green Team, which then will make final selections and notify applicants.

The deadline to apply is Friday, March 17, so get on it if you'd like to be a part of the event. For more information about the Earth Day celebration, contact Green Team member Kim Park at 928-638-7329 or [email protected].

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Throwback Thursday: Blacklisted in Moscow

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post is long, but with ”Russia“ in the news a lot lately, we thought you’d find it interesting. It begins with a Letter to the Editor in our May 1965 issue. It’s followed by Editor Raymond Carlson’s response.


Enclosed you will find a copy of an “Einziehungsprotokoll Nr. 219158” of the East German postal authorities. In plain English this means that they confiscated twelve magazines and some additional travel folders I mailed to my father-in-law, who lives in Dresden. One of these magazines was published by you (Grand Canyon edition of ARIZONA HIGHWAYS). As you know, the magazine is without politics, therefore the confiscation was outrageous and unreasonable. As publishers of the magazine, I believe that you must be interested in unrestricted circulation with the postal systems, so please let’s do something about this! A letter of protest by you to the Russian Embassy and the U.S. and East German postal authorities might help. If no success, a request for retaliatory action by the U.S. Post Office against East German magazines to this country might be the answer.

Walter Schroeder, Rosamond, California


It is difficult for us to read the minds of those behind the iron curtain. Shortly after we received this letter from Mr. Schroeder, we were startled to read in our morning newspaper in a New York Times News Service dispatch from Moscow that we were blacklisted in Russia for the heinous crime of being “subversive” and for “propagandizing” and “glamourizing” the American way of life. Tsk! Tsk! Ivan! Things have changed since Ol’ Joe Stalin sat in the driver’s seat in the Kremlin. Ol’ Joe was on our mailing list (courtesy one of our American readers) for years (and with no repercussions) and his daughter was a self-paid subscriber. The dispatch was printed in many newspapers throughout the country and drew some unusual responses. The Tucson Chamber of Commerce wired an invitation to the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., inviting (via courtesy T.W.A.) three top Russian travel writers to visit Arizona and see for themselves whether we are subversive to anyone in telling the colorful story of Arizona.

Senator Paul Fannin arose to our defense in the U.S. Senate saying, in part: “Mr. President, in the ’New York Times’ of Sunday, February 7, datelined Moscow, there appeared an article written by Theodore Shabad which disclosed that Soviet authorities have blacklisted ARIZONA HIGHWAYS magazine on grounds that it constitutes subversive propaganda. Among other things, the Soviet trade union newspaper, ’Trud,’ called ARIZONA HIGHWAYS provocative literature clearly intended to conduct hostile propaganda among the Soviet people.

“Many Senators, I am sure, are familiar with ARIZONA HIGHWAYS, which is published monthly by the Arizona State Highway Department to portray the many colorful and unique beauties of the Grand Canyon state. The magazine over the years has won a well-deserved reputation for the consistently high quality of its photography and design. I feel certain that those who do know ARIZONA HIGHWAYS will be as surprised as I am to learn that it could be considered subversive or provocative in any respect, even by Soviet standards. The judgment of subversive literature, like beauty, apparently lies in the eye of the viewer ...

“… It is impossible to fake the kind of photography that appears in ARIZONA HIGHWAYS, and I hope that a qualified delegation of Soviet writers will be fortunate enough to discover this for themselves. If they should be subverted during their tour, it would be only by the compelling attraction of such nonpolitical sights as the Grand Canyon, cactus in bloom, and the vivid colors of an Arizona sunset.”

But, perhaps nationally syndicated columnist Inez Robb had the last word to say when she wrote in her column:

“Let’s not be beastly to the Russians in the matter of ARIZONA HIGHWAYS, that ravishing magazine just blacklisted by Soviet authorities and denounced as subversive literature propagandizing the American way of life.

“Let’s face the fact that to the uninitiated this monthly publication of the Arizona Highway Department exudes a faint tincture of snake oil. I have seen Ivy League types east of the Hudson examine the contents of ARIZONA HIGHWAYS with curled and skeptic lip.

“If all Americans unfamiliar with the great Southwest find it difficult to credit the publication’s magnificent color reproductions of photographs of Arizona’s glorious deserts, the grandeur of her many mountain ranges, the majesty of the Grand Canyon, the pyrotechnics of her sunsets, the extent of her open-pit copper mines, the variety and beauty of her desert flora, the impact of the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert, the grace of her mountain meadows and scenic glory of such highways as the Coronado Trail — well, if such Americans find ARIZONA HIGHWAYS hard to credit, how can we expect the comrades and the commissars to be of firmer faith ?...

“ARIZONA HIGHWAYS, one of the handsomest magazines published, only mirrors the beauty of the state and of the Southwest. And, in truth, it is subversive. Once you are hooked on ARIZONA HIGHWAYS it is habit forming — you begin to believe and then you want to go, go, go ... Yes, the Russians would do well to keep it out of their country …”

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Mexican Wolf Population in Arizona, New Mexico Hits New High

These Mexican wolves, part of the reintroduced population in Arizona and New Mexico, were photographed in 2007. | Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

After a down year, the reintroduced population of Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico appears to be on the rebound.

As The Arizona Republic reported last month, federal and state biologists announced that they counted 113 Mexican wolves in Eastern Arizona and Western New Mexico in 2016. That's the most since the species was returned to the area in the 1990s; the previous high was 110, in 2014.

It's also a big jump from the 97 wolves that were counted in 2015. That year saw several illegal shootings of the wolves, along with lower-than-normal pup survival, officials said.

Fifty wild-born pups survived in 2016, compared with 23 in 2015, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partner agencies in the two states.

The federal agency says the numbers are encouraging but that this reintroduced population is not yet "out of the woods." The agency's stated goal is a 10 percent annual population gain for the wolves.

Wolf advocates, meanwhile, say additional releases of captive-bred wolves are needed to ensure the population's genetic diversity. But predation of livestock and game animals remains a concern of ranchers and hunters in both states.

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