Rio Tierra Casitas

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Rio Tierra Casitas

By Annette McGivney | Photograph by Mark Lipczynski

Rio Tierra Casitas is just an hour’s drive northwest of the Phoenix metro area, but this desert oasis nestled along the Hassayampa River is a world away from 21st century hustle and bustle. Actually, it’s three worlds away, depending on which retro casita you choose.

There’s Mexicasa Roca (pictured), which offers a trip back to Old Mexico with a vintage turquoise stove and sink, aquamarine concrete floors and Mexican-tiled countertops. Just down the path is Rancho Deluxe, which evokes an early 1900s cowboy bunkhouse and is outfitted with an old-fashioned farm sink, a leather couch, a corrugated-tin shower, Navajo blankets and a saddle at the foot of the bed. And tucked in a mesquite grove is the Bosque Bungalow, decorated in Midcentury Cottage style.

“We created this bed and breakfast from the sand up,” says Katy Beewell, who bought the property with her partner, John Marley, in 2002. The couple saw the potential to transform this place 4 miles southeast of Wickenburg into a riverside sanctuary that embraced their love of nature. Marley, a builder, and Beewell, an avid antiques collector who previously owned a New Mexico B&B, poured their passions into the property.

Although the three casitas were long works in progress, each has reached a level of perfection that exudes its theme and time period in every knickknack, light fixture and bedspread. There are even secondary themes: In Mexicasa Roca, a bedroom is decorated with parrots, while the Bosque Bungalow features a bedroom for birders.

Beewell also added creative tributes to the natural environment. Pantry doors in Mexicasa Roca are made with saguaro ribs, while kitchen cabinet doors in Rancho Deluxe are faced with willow branches. And then there’s Beewell’s homemade banana bread and muffins, which wait for guests in each casita.

But the exquisite décor and home-baked goodies are not the only reasons to escape to this gem in the desert. Rio Tierra, as the name implies, offers a rare opportunity to lounge next to a river that flows year-round and nurtures some 300 species of birds. The newly formed Vulture Mountains Recreation Area adjoins the property, and guests can walk through a private gate to access a network of trails leading to the crystal-clear, ankle-deep Hassayampa River. Chairs are tucked beneath mesquites for those who want to read or simply soak in the wonder of water in the desert.

Rare vermilion flycatchers hang out along the river from February through September. “They are one of my greatest joys,” Beewell says of the bright-red birds, whose sweet songs greet her as she walks to the river.

But if you feel the call of the 21st century during your stay at Rio Tierra, don’t fret: This oasis also has excellent Wi-Fi.

Rio Tierra Casitas is located at 28507 U.S. Route 60 near Wickenburg. For more information, call 928-684-3037 or visit www.riotierracasitas.com.

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