A Mogollon Rim Almanac

Family feuds, scattered "diamonds," death-defying lions and a miscellany of other information that may or may not be of interest as you make your way to Rim Country. | By Emily Lierle

A Mogollon Rim Almanac
  • Al Fulton Point

    Located at the top of The Rim, about 30 miles northeast of Payson off State Route 260, is Al Fulton Point, which sits at an elevation of 7,529 feet. It’s named for a man who, the story goes, was murdered in 1888 by an angry rancher. According to the legend, Fulton and his brother had driven their flocks of sheep through Wilford Scarlet’s cattle range, and Scarlet ran the sheep toward a sinkhole. Fulton fell off his horse and was killed. There’s a modest tombstone marking his grave today, and it once read: “Al Fulton, Murdered 1888.” It later was changed to “Al Fulton, Shot 1901” — perhaps to mask the possibility that Fulton was wrongfully hanged. By the way, the Mogollon Rim Visitor Center is located at Al Fulton Point.

  • Beeline Highway

    State Route 87 connects Payson and the rest of Rim Country to metropolitan Phoenix. Its predecessor was the Bush Highway, built in the 1930s — part of that road is still in use today. On that road, the trip from the Valley of the Sun to Payson was a nine-hour drive. The stretch of SR 87 that replaced the Bush Highway is a much more direct route, hence its nickname: the Beeline Highway.

  • Diamond Point

    About 8 miles south of The Rim is a place called Diamond Point, which is named for the naturally faceted quartz crystals scattered in the vicinity. From Payson, go northeast on State Route 260 for 14 miles to Forest Road 64 (Control Road). Turn left (west) onto FR 64 and continue 4 miles to Forest Road 65. Turn left (south) onto FR 65 and continue 4 miles to Diamond Point, which features spectacular vistas of Rim Country. Also along FR 65 is the Diamond Rim Quartz Crystal Collection Site.

  • Early Settlers

    The Mogollon people arrived in Arizona from New Mexico around 300 B.C. By A.D. 1500, their culture had merged with the Hohokams and the Ancestral Puebloans. Rim Country later was inhabited by the Apache people, and today, several Apache tribes call the area home. 

    The Shoofly Village ruins, located just outside of Payson, were excavated by archaeologists from Arizona State University. The more than 80 rooms in the ruins housed Native populations between A.D. 1000 and 1250. The site, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, can be accessed via Houston Mesa Road north of Payson.

  • Changing Hands Bookstore + First Draft Book Bar

    Changing Hands Bookstore + First Draft Book Bar

    300 West Camelback Road / Phoenix, AZ 85013 / 602.274.0067

    Located in the heart of central Phoenix, Changing Hands Bookstore is one of just a handful of "book bars" in the United States. Enjoy a glass of wine, mead, or an ice cold craft beer at the bar, or sip while you shop a huge selection of books and unique gift items. (Yes, you can browse with booze!) You can also attend an event with one of our visiting author guests, including #1 New York Times bestsellers, celebrity memoirists, sports figures, rock stars, and more.

  • Fossil Creek

    Fossil Creek, west of Pine and Strawberry, flows from its headwaters on The Rim south to the Verde River. Early explorers noticed that the creek, saturated with travertine minerals, creates “petrifications” — objects, such as rocks and twigs, that resemble fossils but instead have a travertine coating.

  • Gila County

    The Payson area became part of Gila County in 1890, but there were no jails in the area for several years. So, when a criminal awaited transport to the county jail in Globe, he or she was chained to an oak tree on Main Street. 

  • Pueblo Grande Museum

    Pueblo Grande Museum

    4619 E. Washington Street, Phoenix

    Pueblo Grande Museum is located on a 1,500 year old archaeological site once inhabited by the Hohokam culture located just minutes from downtown Phoenix next to Sky Harbor International Airport. This National Historic Landmark and Phoenix Point of Pride has been a part of the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department since 1929, and is the largest preserved archaeological site within Phoenix. There is on-site parking available and the site is easily accessible by the Sky Train and the Light Rail. The museum is open 7 days a week October through April, and closed Sundays and Mondays, May through September.

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  • Leo the Lion

    In September 1927, the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lion, Leo, was en route to New York from California when the plane carrying him crashed on the Mogollon Rim about 60 miles north of Roosevelt Lake. Luckily, Leo was contained in a specially designed steel cage encased in glass, and cowboys rescued the cat from the wreckage after pilot Martin Jensen sought help at Apache Lodge. 

  • Mogollon Rim

    The Mogollon Rim takes its name from Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollon, the former governor of Santa Fe de Nuevo México, a province of New Spain and later a territory of Mexico. In the early 18th century, before Arizona became a state, Mogollon was appointed to oversee the province. In addition to The Rim, the New Mexico ghost town of Mogollon and that state’s Mogollon Mountains are named after Mogollon.

    The pronunciation of “Mogollon” has long been fodder for contention. Out-of-towners often pronounce it “moe-gi-yon,” but locals insist on “muggy-on” or “muggy-own.”

    One of the first adventurers along the Mogollon Rim was six months pregnant. Martha Summerhayes traveled in a military wagon with her husband, a soldier, from Fort Mojave on the Colorado River to Prescott in 1872. They continued 150 more miles to Fort Apache. In 1908, Summerhayes authored a book, Vanished Arizona, about her travels as an Army wife. Of her Mogollon Rim experience, she wrote: “The scenery was wild and grand; in fact, beyond all that I had ever dreamed of; more than that, it seemed so untrod, so fresh, somehow, and I do not suppose that even now, in the day of railroads and tourists, many people have had the view of the Tonto Basin which we had one day from the top of the Mogollon range. I remember thinking, as we alighted from our [military wagons] and stood looking over into the Basin, ‘Surely I have never seen anything to compare with this — but oh! would any sane human being voluntarily go through with what I have endured on this journey, in order to look upon this wonderful scene?’ ” 

    The Mogollon Rim extends from northern Yavapai County southeast to near the New Mexico border.   

    Captain John Bourke, who fought Apaches under the command of General George Crook, once negotiated the crest of the Mogollon Rim. He called it “a strange upheaval, a strange freak of nature, a mountain canted up on one side.”

    Senator Barry Goldwater authored an ode to The Rim in the foreword of the 1984 book Rim Country History: “The Mogollon Rim is something that every Arizonan lives with and loves, as well as jealously protects the pronunciation of that word. Many times I have been in airplanes and the Captain, attempting to explain the ground we were flying over, would pronounce the name exactly like it looks in print. Then, I would have to go up forward to tell him, ‘No, it’s Mogollon,’ which confuses him to no end. … As I have
    observed in my life, it is a most unusual place because, there it is, everybody can see it, and it just sits there for Arizonans to be proud of and to be glad that God put it there for all of us to use and enjoy.”

  • Payson

    At the heart of the 200-mile stretch that makes up the Mogollon Rim lies Payson, which was named by one publication as one of the three healthiest places on the planet in which to retire.

    Payson, formerly known as Green Valley, adopted its current name from the man who helped the town acquire a post office: Lewis Edwin Payson, a member of the Illinois House of Representatives. 

    Payson is known for its clean air, and the town likes to boast that it’s located in one of three “pure air ozone belts” in the world. That appears to be a tall tale: Brian Klimowski, a National Weather Service meteorologist, says he’s never heard of, and can’t find any official documentation of, the phenomenon. In 2003, a Payson Roundup writer made light of the town’s claim to fame by recounting a conversation with an out-of-town friend. She asked, “What is a ‘pure air ozone belt?’ ” The writer answered, “Nobody knows, and that’s the beauty of it.” (Payson’s air is very clean, though.)

    To learn more about Payson, visit www.paysonrimcountry.com.

  • Pleasant Valley

    Phoenix Park, a large meadow near Heber, has a connection to one of Arizona’s most violent frontier conflicts. James Stinson ran cattle on that patch of land in the late 1800s before moving his herd south to the lush grasslands of Pleasant Valley. Before long, members of the Graham and Tewksbury families were accused of rustling cattle from Stinson’s ranch. Eventually, the families turned on each other in a prolonged, bloody feud — known today as the Pleasant Valley War — that left both families decimated. 

    James Scott, Jamie Stott and Billy Wilson fell victim to corruption in Pleasant Valley in 1888. Stott was arrested on suspicion of horse theft by Deputy Sheriff J.D. Houck, who allegedly arrived without a warrant. Scott and Wilson had spent the night at Stott’s ranch and were also captured before the three were hanged on a large ponderosa pine. Their gravestones can be found along the Hangman Trail north of Forest Road 300. 

  • Rocky Mountain Elk

    Parts of Rim Country are habitats for elk — but these elk aren’t native to the area. Between 1913 and 1928, about 250 Rocky Mountain elk were transplanted here from Yellowstone National Park. The relocation came after the Merriam’s elk, Arizona’s native elk species, disappeared as humans occupied the area during frontier times. Those transplants are the ancestors of today’s elk population, which has grown to nearly 35,000 in Arizona.

  • Strawberry

    Strawberry, located 20 miles north of Payson at the base of the Mogollon Rim, is home to what’s known as Arizona’s oldest standing schoolhouse. The Strawberry Schoolhouse opened in 1886. Today, it’s open to the public from mid-May to mid-October, but only on certain days. For more information, visit www.strawberryschool.org.

  • Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery

    The Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery, stationed in the Tonto National Forest at an elevation of 6,500 feet, has been in operation since 1937 and was damaged by the 1990 Dude Fire, which also claimed writer Zane Grey’s cabin. One building crumbled and the watershed sustained damage, but the hatchery recovered, and every year it produces rainbow trout, brook trout and Apache trout (Arizona’s state fish) to stock the state’s waterways. It’s operated by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. For more information, visit www.azgfd.gov

  • Tonto Natural Bridge

    Scientists believe it took thousands of years for Pine Creek to deposit and carve the travertine that makes up Tonto Natural Bridge, which is thought to be the world’s largest natural travertine bridge. The landmark, located between Payson and Pine, is 183 feet high and forms a 400-foot-long tunnel. It’s operated as a state park today. For more information, visit www.azstateparks.com/parks/tona.

  • The Tunnel

    In 1883, the Arizona Mineral Belt Railroad, seeking a route for transporting silver ore between Globe and Flagstaff, attempted to drill a railroad tunnel through the Mogollon Rim. It carved out only 70 of the desired 3,100 feet before abandoning the idea, as finances and geography proved unforgiving. Hikers can still find the tunnel at the end of a short but grueling trail off of Forest Road 300.

  • Zane Grey

    Famed Western author Zane Grey loved Rim Country so much, he built himself a cabin on it in the 1920s near present-day Kohls Ranch. His porch sat on a lip overlooking the Tonto Basin, so the writer didn’t have to look far to find inspiration for his ink (see related story, page 34).

    Grey’s cabin succumbed to the weeklong Dude Fire in June 1990, and a replica now stands in Green Valley Park in Payson. It’s operated by the Northern Gila County Historical Society. For more information, visit www.rimcountrymuseums.com.

    In 1929, Grey invited friends to his cabin for some offseason hunting. The Arizona Game and Fish Department denied him special treatment, stating that the author wasn’t exempt from observing the approved hunting dates. Incensed, Grey left Arizona and swore he’d never return. And he never did.