Throwback Thursday: Arizona Highways, January 1967

From the issue: "'Beavertail Cactus.' M. Paul Jarrett. From Wickenburg take Arizona 93, about five miles north of the overpass at the junction of the Aguila-Congress Road, turn off onto the Alamo Road. About five miles out on the Alamo Road is a cattle guard. From there on is one of the best displays of Beavertail Cacti and Joshua trees to be found." (Disclaimer: We have no idea if this is still the case 51 years later.)

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Key I-10 Rest Area Closes for Renovation

The Sacaton Rest Area on Interstate 10 will be closed for about six months. | Courtesy of Arizona Department of Transportation

Upgrades and renovations will close a rest area along Interstate 10 south of Phoenix for about six months, the Arizona Department of Transportation announced this month.

The Sacaton Rest Area, between Phoenix and Casa Grande, closed January 8, according to an ADOT news release. Both the eastbound and westbound components of the rest area will close for the $4 million renovation, the department said.

ADOT is making upgrades to the rest area to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It's also replacing a water line, septic tanks and sewer lines; upgrading the rest area's electrical and mechanical systems; and painting the facility.

Because of the closure, the nearest facilities for travelers on that part of I-10 will be in the Phoenix and Casa Grande areas and on Gila River Indian Community land.

Other upcoming renovations of ADOT rest areas include Interstate 19's Canoa Ranch Rest Area, this spring; the Meteor Crater and Painted Cliffs rest areas on Interstate 40, in 2019; and the Mazatzal Rest Area on State Route 87, in 2020.

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Q&A: Lowell Observatory Adding Observation Deck

This rendering shows the Giovale Open Deck Observatory, a project planned for Flagstaff's Lowell Observatory. | Courtesy of Lowell Observatory

Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff has announced plans to create a new observation deck to help with its increasing number of visitors each night.

According to the observatory, the new deck will be named in honor of longtime Lowell supporters and advisers John and Ginger Giovale, who made a lead gift for the project. “One of the things that prompted us to support this project is the vision being developed there at Lowell Observatory for major revamping of the campus and the visitors' experience," John Giovale said. "We saw this telescope plaza as a way in which momentum may be created towards that bigger objective, that bigger vision. And we were excited about that.”

Molly Baker, communications manager at Lowell, said the Giovale Open Deck Observatory project is “only the beginning of an exciting five-year-long expansion for Lowell Observatory.” The expansion is slated to include more room for exhibits, a larger visitors center and even a theater.

Baker shared additional details on the new observation deck.

Why is an additional deck needed at the observatory?
Lowell Observatory has been attracting 100,000 visitors for the last several years, and our original Mars Hill facility simply can't handle our average nightly admission anymore. The Giovale Open Deck Observatory will provide more telescopes for more guests without the long lines and wait time, and also without the hassle of pulling the telescopes out every night, as the roof housing them will roll off and they can stay stationary.

How many additional telescopes will the observatory house?
The GODO will house five telescopes, all of which provide a different view for the observer. It was important to Lowell Observatory that these new telescopes be of the highest technology, as it is our goal to be a premier private observatory in the nation and internationally.

When is the Giovale Open Deck Observatory expected to open to visitors?
Construction is scheduled to begin this spring. As long as everything goes smoothly, we expect to open the GODO in a members-only sneak peek, and then to the general public, in fall of 2018.

The observatory has created a "Telescope Wish List." What is needed, and how can people donate?
While the construction of the deck is fully funded by the generosity of the Giovales, we are still searching for funding of the large cost of the telescopes. These telescopes add up to a large sum, as they are the best in the industry.

As a nonprofit, Lowell Observatory funds our public program and science research purely on the generosity of our members, donors and grants. This is all possible because of people, like the Giovales, who believe in the mission of Lowell Observatory: to bring pure science research to the public, making discovery accessible to everyone.

People who wish to donate can do so by visiting our website or contacting our development manager, Lisa Actor, at [email protected].

— Kirsten Kraklio

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Recent Dry Spell Was Arizona's Longest in Nearly 700 Years, Scientists Say

Adrienne McLeod | Saguaro National Park

Arizona's ongoing drought can claim another dubious distinction, according to a study by scientists at the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

The scientists say a recent six-year stretch of below-average river flow, which ended in 2017, was the longest such stretch since the 1300s. Before that recent dry spell, the longest stretch without a year of above-average flow was five years, the Phoenix New Times reported last month.

The LTRR scientists based their study on tree-ring data, using that information to estimate the flow levels of rivers that provide water to the Phoenix area and other parts of Central Arizona.

While the stretch of below-average river flow was broken by a wet winter in 2017, Arizona remains in the throes of a 21-year period of abnormally precipitation. That's expected to continue for several years, and it could soon trigger a reduction of water allocations to the state from Lake Mead — which currently is at 39 percent of capacity, the New Times reported.

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Wickenburg's Gold Rush Days: A Step Back in Time

Courtesy of Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce

They travel from the north, south, east and west. They come from far away and from just down the road. Every year, thousands of people from all over the country travel to Wickenburg to celebrate the historic town’s rich mining and ranching heritage at Gold Rush Days. This year is especially significant for Gold Rush Days, as it’s the 70th anniversary of the event — as well as Wickenburg’s 155th birthday.

The four-day event, running February 8-11, is jam-packed with a variety of Western-themed activities and performances, both free and paid.

The festivities kick off Thursday, February 8, with a Wickenburg history exhibit at the Desert Caballeros Western Museum, a carnival and a performance by the 3 Red Neck Tenors.

The rest of the weekend, eventgoers can check out the classic-car show on Frontier Street, wander around the arts and crafts fair at the Wickenburg Community Center, watch mining contests or catch one of the melodrama performances at the historic Saguaro Theatre.

Year after year, the most popular of the many Gold Rush Days events are usually the parade and the rodeo, said Julie Brooks, executive director of the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce.

This year’s parade, recognized as the fourth-largest in Arizona, will take place Saturday at 10 a.m. and will feature close to a thousand horses. The parade’s theme is “Ropin’ the West,” and the grand marshal will be Cody Custer, a Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association world champion.

The Senior Pro Rodeo Slack will take place Friday, February 9, at 11 a.m., and the Senior Pro Rodeo will be on Saturday and Sunday, February 10 and 11, at 2 p.m. Both will be held at the Everett Bowman Arena.

Admission to most of the activities are free, but tickets must be purchased for the rodeo, the melodrama and the Thursday and Friday night concerts. You can pay at the gate, but it's recommended that you purchase tickets in advance online, at

Those who live in Arizona’s fourth-oldest town seem to always look forward to Gold Rush Days because they’re able to show off not only the town’s long-standing traditions, but also all the other great things Wickenburg has to offer, Brooks said.

“The whole town is very thrilled with this signature event, because it’s a wonderful time in Arizona, weather-wise, and there’s a number of things that visitors can do besides all the things that are a part of our schedule of activities,” she said.

“We have local restaurants, hiking trails, a beautiful Western museum, concerts at the Del E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts and horseback riding. They can do a lot of things during that weekend that would bring them to stay a little longer than just for the special event,” she added.

To commemorate the 70th anniversary, a limited-edition poster was designed by Maverick Engelhart. You can buy one, or learn more about Gold Rush Days, by contacting the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce. at or 928-684-5479.

Find a full schedule of events and ticket prices at

— Emily Balli

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Ranking: Arizona Among Most Pet-Friendly States

Thomas Unger | Lake Havasu City

Whether you're a dog lover, a cat fancier or the owner of some other pet, Arizona is a good place for you, according to a recent ranking of the most pet-friendly states in America.

SafeWise, a company that specializes in safety and home security, produced the ranking, saying it's based on 2015 data from the U.S. Department of Labor, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and online pet resources. It used criteria such as strictness of anti-cruelty laws, percentage of no-kill shelters and number of pet-friendly hotels and parks.

Arizona came in third in the ranking — behind Maine and Virginia, and ahead of Oklahoma and Colorado. Here's what SafeWise had to say about Arizona's pet-friendliness:

Arizona is truly for the outdoorsman/woman—and his/her nature-loving pets! With mild weather, hiking, biking, and more adventure, this place is great for pet-lovers based solely on that. It’s also the 10th best state in the country for its percentage of no-kill shelters and 11th for its strict anti-cruelty laws. Hilary Hager from Humane Society of America says that “A truly safe community ensures that pets can stay with the people who love them, even when they fall on hard times, and ensures that animals already living safely in the community remain undisturbed.” And based on the 629 pet-friendly businesses, over 900 pet-friendly hotels, and hundreds of hiking trails for animals, it seems like people here have taken her philosophies to heart.

As Arizona natives know, most of the state's hiking trails are open to dogs (and cats, if you're the kind of person who takes their cat on hikes). Among the only exceptions are the trails at national parks and monuments.

In contrast, Utah, Arizona's neighbor to the north, was 49th in the ranking — ahead of only Mississippi and New York. (There were 51 entries in the list, because the District of Columbia was included.)

What's your favorite thing to do with your pets in Arizona?

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Tempe's Hayden Flour Mill Will Get New Life This Year

Hayden Flour Mill | Courtesy of Baum Redevelopment

The Hayden Flour Mill is one of Tempe's most recognizable landmarks — and the reason the street it's on in downtown Tempe is named Mill Avenue. But it's also sat vacant for nearly two decades as the city has grown around it.

Now, as The Arizona Republic reported recently, the city is moving ahead with plans to reshape the historic mill into office and retail space, plus a five-story hotel, starting in 2018.

Tempe purchased the mill property in 2003 and agreed to lease it to Chicago-based Baum Development in 2016. The city approved the first phase of the mill's redevelopment last month, The Republic reported. Construction is slated to begin this year, with some amenities open by the summer of 2019 and the project completed by early 2021.

The mill's iconic grain silos will be reshaped into hotel rooms in the second phase of the project, the developer told The Republic, and the additional hotel building will be built behind the mill to avoid obstructing the view of the silos or the adjacent Hayden Butte, also known as Tempe Butte and "A" Mountain.

Milling operations began at the site in 1874, and the Hayden family, led by Tempe co-founder Charles Trumbull Hayden, managed it for three generations. The Hayden family also produced the late Carl Hayden, Arizona's longtime U.S. congressman and senator.

The current concrete structure dates to 1951; the original wood and adobe structure burned down in the 1910s. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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White Mountains Roads Set to Close Today

Look, we're going to level with you: We don't have a winter photo of Crescent Lake in the White Mountains. Just imagine this photo with less sun and more snow (and ice). | Photo by Don Peters

Two popular state routes used by visitors to Eastern Arizona's White Mountains are closing for the winter today (Tuesday, January 2), the Arizona Department of Transportation announced last week.

State Route 261, which runs south from State Route 260 near Eagar to State Route 273 at Crescent Lake, will close between Milepost 404.9 and Crescent Lake. And SR 273 will close between Sunrise Park and the route's southern terminus at Big Lake.

As ADOT noted, the routes are among a handful of state routes that normally close in winter and reopen in spring. The others, which closed earlier, are the North Rim Parkway (State Route 67), which runs from Jacob Lake to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon; State Route 473, which leads from SR 260 to Hawley Lake in the White Mountains; and part of State Route 366 up Mount Graham, near Safford.

Regardless of where you're traveling in Arizona's high country, it's important to be prepared for winter weather this time of year. You can get tips for winter driving at, and you can get real-time highway conditions by visiting ADOT's information site,

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